Iowa State University



Robert C. Brown, Iowa Farm Bureau Director of the Office of Biorenewables Programs

Office: (515) 294-7934

Report, recommendations from bioeconomy summit

The final report and recommendations resulting from a recent summit on maintaining Iowa's leadership in the bioeconomy has been released. Leaders from Iowa industry, government and higher education met on campus Nov. 28 for the summit on "Ensuring Iowa's Leadership in the Bioeconomy." View the recommendations (Word doc).

Leaders discuss Iowa's role in bioeconomy

More than 400 leaders from Iowa industry, government and higher education gathered on the Iowa State campus Nov. 28 for a day-long discussion of Iowa's leadership role in the bioeconomy. Following is video of some of conference sessions. (The Breeze video works in any Web browser that supports Flash media.)

Ted Heindel

Iowa State researchers helping to take the natural gas out of ethanol production

Iowa State University engineers are working with an Ames company to develop a renewable and cost-effective alternative to the natural gas burned by most ethanol plants. The project is partially supported by the Grow Iowa Values Fund, a state economic development program. See story.

ISU economist gets real with economic impact of corn-ethanol boom

David Swenson, an associate scientist and lecturer in economics and community and regional planning, reports that some projections about the economic impact of ethanol are being inflated. He has authored and presented a paper titled "Input-Outrageous: The Economic Impacts of Modern Biofuel Production." See story.

Iowa State scientists study alternative crops for fuel production


Crops not routinely found on Iowa farms -- switchgrass, Indiangrass, big bluestem, eastern gamagrass, sweet sorghum, triticale, kenaf -- fill several research plots on an Iowa State University farm west of Ames. The goal is to provide realistic alternatives for Iowa producers while developing uses for the new crops. For instance, emerging markets for liquid fuels and other industrial products made from crop biomass offer opportunities. See story.

Ultrasonics boosts release rates of corn sugars for ethanol production

A team of Iowa State researchers has used ultrasonic pretreatment of corn in laboratory experiments to increase the corn's release rates of sugars by nearly 30 percent. That could mean each bushel of corn that goes into an ethanol plant could more efficiently produce ethanol for your car's fuel tank. See story.

Iowa State University plant scientists begin to unravel the mystery of hybrid vigor

For nearly 80 years, corn breeders and producers have taken advantage of hybrid vigor to grow high-yielding crops. Yet this biological process remains a scientific mystery. Researchers in the Plant Sciences Institute have uncovered a key to the complex molecular mechanisms of hybrid vigor. Once the gene activity behind hybrid vigor is well understood, scientists could more rapidly create hybrids that confer desired traits like ethanol production into the germplasm. See story.

ISU's Robert C. Brown to Senate committee: The bioeconomy is bigger than biofuels

Robert C. Brown

Iowa State's Robert C. Brown addressed the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in April 2006 and suggested four goals for the country's bioeconomy:

  • Reduce America's reliance on imported oil.
  • Improve environmental quality.
  • Expand the markets for U.S. agricultural products.
  • Improve the economy of rural America.
See text.

Iowa State researchers convert farm waste to bio-oil

Iowa State researchers are converting manure and corn stalks into a bio-oil that can be burned as fuel. They'll experiment with the process on a Story County hog farm beginning this fall. See story.

Victor Lin

Finding a better way to make biodiesel

Iowa State scientists are using chemistry and nanotechnology to create a better way to make biodiesel. See story.

Center establishes biorenewables policy division

The Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University is launching a new Biorenewables Policy Division. The division will focus on policy questions surrounding expansion of biorenewables in the United States and the shifting playing field this creates for midwestern producers. See story.

Iowa State corn/soy plastics to be made into hog feeders

Richard Larock

Richard Larock, a University Professor of chemistry at Iowa State University, is developing plastics made from corn and soybean oils that will be used to build hog feeders. Larock has invented and patented a process for producing various bioplastics from inexpensive natural oils, which make up 40 percent to 80 percent of the plastics. The feeders could be on the market by the end of next year. Larock said his research project is about as Iowa as you can get. The state, after all, is the country's leading producer of corn, soybeans and pork. See story.

Iowa State puts together powerful bioenergy team

Excitement about Iowa's emerging role in bioenergy is sweeping across the state. Iowa State is taking a strong leadership role in research into biorenewable fuels and products by combining the efforts of powerful research units on campus. Robert Brown, head of the Office for Biorenewables Programs, has been a broker or matchmaker in building campus coalitions and helping to put Iowa State at the center of the nation's bioenergy map. See story.

Better bean oil for biolubricants

Two food science researchers are collaborating with a mechanical engineering professor to understand the properties of biobased lubricants.

Earl Hammond

Earl Hammond, emeritus university professor, and Tong Wang, an associate professor, both in Food Science and human nutrition, are collaborating with Sriram Sundararajan, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. The researchers want a biobased lubricant with a low melting point; low oxidation, comparable to petroleum-based motor oil; and the right viscosity. Low oxidation and melting point are important to keep the oil from gelling or freezing, respectively. The right viscosity lets oil cling to parts without excessively increasing the resistance to flow. See story.

Spinning cornstalks into bioenergy gold

There's a tremendous bioenergy resource in the stalks and leaves left in cornfields, but it will be tricky to capture it and maintain soil quality, agronomy professor Ken Moore says. Iowa State researchers want to maximize biomass production, but minimize the impact of removing crop residues, such as corn stover, from fields, where it usually decays and controls soil erosion. See story.

Deland Myers

Soy-based adhesive readied for market

Deland Myers pops out of his chair in his Food Sciences Building office. He dives into boxes, finding fiberboard samples for visitors. They're made with soy-based adhesives that Myers, a food science and human nutrition associate professor, has spent years researching. Now he believes they're ready for commercialization. See story.

Turning corn fiber into ethanol

Iowa State University researchers have used mold to convert corn fiber into ethanol. The discovery could turn byproducts of corn milling into another source of fuel. See story.

Hans and Jacek

Iowa State researchers explore turning fuel ethanol into beverage alcohol

Iowa State University researchers are using two purification technologies and sophisticated chemical analysis to develop a quick and inexpensive process for turning fuel ethanol into food-grade alcohol suitable for beverages, cough medicines, mouth washes and other uses. See story.

Iowa Farm Bureau Commits $1 Million to Iowa State's Bioeconomy Program

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation's gift will be used to provide support for the Office of Biorenewables Programs, including additional faculty and staff salaries and new collaborations in research, educational and outreach activities.See story.

ISU conference explores tailoring plants for bioenergy and biobased products

The Midwest could someday replace the Mideast as the center of energy production if researchers can develop plants that more readily convert their leaves, stalks and other fibers into energy and biobased products. Iowa State University's Plant Sciences Institute sponsored a one-day conference that brought together experts to explore the possibilities that plant breeding, chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology can bring to the challenge. See story.

Cargill commits $600,000 to Iowa State's bioeconomy program

Cargill's grant of $600,000 to Iowa State's Bioeconomy Initiative will make four new components possible:

  • Freshmen Experiences in Biorenewables
  • Common Laboratory in Biobased Technologies
  • Course Work in Biobased Technologies
  • International Experiences in Biorenewables
See story.

Promoting biorenewables is new job for Iowa State agronomy professor

Soaring gas prices have everyone talking about alternative energy options. Iowa State University's Steven Fales is just like everyone else - he doesn't enjoy paying more at the pump. But he does enjoy the increased focus on using agricultural crops to reduce oil consumption. See story.

Iowa State faculty lead bioenergy discussion at national energy conference

Iowa State University faculty led a session at a national conference on energy for a sustainable and secure future. See story.

Turning tallgrass to fuel grass

Robert C. Brown: "Our nation was originally a bioeconomy before switching to a petroleum economy. I see good reasons to move back." See story.