Brown looks toward future as new director of coal center

Tracy Deutmeyer

Iowa State’s Center for Coal and the Environment is making changes to fit the future.

With a new mission statement and a new director, the Center for Coal and the Environment has taken on a new plan.

Robert Brown, a professor in chemical and mechanical engineering, has been named as the new director of the center.

“Brown is a very capable engineer,” said Joel Snow, director of ISU’s Institute for Research and Technology.

“He has had a considerable amount of experience with the center. He is a leading faculty member in the center’s group,” Snow said.

Snow said that Brown has an exemplary track record for energy conversion.

Provost John Kozak said in a press release that Brown will bring “‚Ķimportant resources to the center that will help it meet its evolved mission, which includes an increased emphasis on sustainable energy development.”

Brown has been the center’s interim director since May. He replaced William Buttermore, who was the center’s director from 1993 to 1996.

Brown earned a B.S. in physics and a B.A. in mathematics from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1976.

He earned M.S.(1977) and Ph.D. (1980) degrees from Michigan State University in mechanical engineering and has worked on thermochemical conversion of fuels since 1983 with special emphasis on biomass fuels in the last five years.

Brown said the center, which was established in 1979, used to look at issues concerning the generation of power in the United States.

“At the end of the summer, the mission was revised. We’re now looking at sustainable energy technology in environmental performance of fossil fuels and biomass fuels,” Brown said.

“We’re establishing new strategic goals. The last coal mine closed in Iowa a few years ago. Coal used to be in Iowa, and that’s why the center was started,” he said.

Snow said he fully supports the revision of the center’s mission.

Brown said he has particular interest in biomass fuels, which are crops grown for fossil fuels, and that “Iowa has a great industry for biomass fuels.”

“Brown really has a strong interest in extending studies on how biomass fuels can be successful in Iowa,” Snow said.

“We decided to focus on something that has more future in Iowa,” Brown said.

The center is a member of the IPRT at ISU. The IPRT consists of ten research centers for physical science and engineering, Snow said.