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Bio-Oils Research Unit Overview

Steven C. Cermak, Ph.D., Research Leader
USDA, ARS, NCAUR – Peoria, Illinois     (309) 681-6533

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Plant Genetic Resources, Genomics and Genetic Improvement (NP #301)
  o Coordinated Analysis of Soybean Breeding Germplasm (CRIS 009)
Product Quality and New Uses (NP #306)
  o Development of New Value-Added Processes and Products from Advancing Oilseed Crops (CRIS 185)
  o New High-Value Biobased Materials with Applications Across Industry (CRIS 186)
  o Versatile Biobased Products with Multiple Functions (CRIS 192)

Research Accomplishments

 New commercialized bio-based crankcase oil 
 Making air travel more sustainable with soy-fuel innovations
 New soy-based hydrogel powder – can be mixed with water to form a gel which has great potential to be a drug-delivery agent
 Pennycress, a potentially viable renewable fuel source, cultivated and improved
 Analysis of soybean breeding germplasm – Provides >7,000 annual compositional analyses
 Diesel fuel gets a boost from tung oil
 New insect repellent – all-natural insect repellent and formulation packages
 Predicting shelf life of biodiesel
 AAIC 2021 A.E. Thompson Career Achievement Award – Dr. Terry Isbell
 AAIC 2021 Outstanding Researcher Award – Dr. Roque Evangelista
 ARS 2022 Hall of Fame Scientist – Dr. Terry Isbell
 ARS 2022 Technology Transfer Award – Drs. Steven Cermak and Roque Evangelista

Capabilities and Collaboration Areas

 Only pilot plant with seed-oil-to product capability
 Polymer and tribology testing equipment
 Oil processing equipment
 Distillation and separation equipment
 Pfaudler 5- and 50-gallon glass lined reactors
 Developing new industrial processes and products from industrial crops
 Specialty seed processing
 Bio-fuels development
 Multiple chemical reactors
 Chemical analysis instruments: FTIR, GC-MS, DSC,TGA, Raman, GPC, etc

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About Bio-Oils Research (BOR)

Mission Statement

Scientists in the Bio‐oils Research Unit (BOR) develop new commodity plant oils and commercially viable industrial bio‐based products from new and existing vegetable oils that are technically and economically competitive with or superior to comparable existing commercial petroleum‐derived materials.

Strategic Goals

Conversion of Vegetable Oils to Industrial  Products:

Improve the properties of vegetable oils and  their components so they can be used as industrial materials such as printing inks, coatings, lubricants, hydraulic fluids, greases, polymers, composites, surfactants, and adhesives. 

Biobased Lubricants:

Determine the friction and wear properties of biopolymers for use in lubricant formulations; determine the reaction mechanism and products of the surface interaction process; and develop predictive models to obtain desired products. 

Industrial Products from New Crops:

Identify new sources of raw materials from alternative crops; devise new analytical methods to analyze components; and develop optimum seed processing and industrial processes to recover value‐added products from new crops.

Primary focus

The primary focus of the BOR unit is product development from new industrial crops that possess certain agronomic and other beneficial features not found in traditional commodity crops.

Interdisciplinary expertise in chemistry, chemical engineering and agricultural sciences is used to generate new, commercially‐viable materials from agricultural feedstocks. This product development spans the full spectrum from discovery of new crops, their agronomic development and chemical conversion to industrially significant materials.

Equipment and expertise is available for planting and harvesting new crops, extraction of seed oil and refining and converting crude seed oils into highervalue bio-based materials and fuels.  Additionally, the Unit contains an extensive collection of highly specialized instrumentation that is used to measure composition and physical properties of fuels, lubricants and other bio-based products.

These individual areas of expertise and equipment are leveraged in concert to generate a unique capacity for truly innovative breakthroughs.



The Bio-oils Research is located in Peoria, IL and is part of the Midwest Area.
The Research Leader is Steven Cermak.
Phone: 309-681-6533
1815 N. University Street
Peoria, IL 61604