Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Bio-oils Research » People » Robert Dunn

Robert O Dunn (Bob)

Research Chemical Engineer
Robert O. Dunn, Jr., Ph.D.

Phone: (309) 681-6101 
Room 3201
Bio-Oils Research 
1815 N University St.
Peoria IL 61604


Dr. Dunn measures the cold properties of soy biodiesel.

♦ Lead Scientist with a PhD in chemical engineering
Physical chemistry, analytical chemistry, alternative diesel fuels, biobased products
♦ Modification of vegetable oils, fats & agricultural lipid residues for non-food applications
♦ Renewable biobased products as drop-in replacements for petroleum-based products 
Biodiesel, biolubricants, polymers, monomers, waxes
♦ Experience collaborating with government, university and industrial partners
♦ 65 peer-reviewed publications and 25 book chapters (ORCID: 0000-0002-5886-7147)


Versatile Biobased Products with Multiple Functions

Expand Biodiesel Feedstocks
  • Demand increasing for feedstocks
        ~70-80% of total production cost
  • Low-quality nonfood (LQNF) oils
    o New crop oilseeds – Low erucic acid pennycress
    o Corn DDGS* oil
    o Sorghum DDGS* oil & waxes
    o Vegetable oil refining wastes (FFA†)
    o Brown & trap greases
  • Cost-effective oil extraction
    o Ultrafiltration (UF) membranes
    o Solvent extraction

* DDGS = Dried distillers’ grains with solubles
† FFA = Free Fatty Acids


Conversion of LQNF Oils
  • Alternative reaction:
        Oil + MeAc‡ → Biodiesel + Additive
  • More efficient continuous process
  • Reusable catalyst – solid, ionic liquids
  • Co-products
    o Cold flow improver (CFI) additive
    o Crude glycerol costly to refine for use in oleochemicals
Wax from sorghum DDGS* oil
  • Composed of 7-14% wax
  • Properties similar to carnauba wax
  • Microfiltration (MF) recovers ~2%
  • Solvent extraction, centrifugation ineffective
  • Enhance wax recovery with ultrafiltration (UF) & nanofiltration (NF) membranes

/ARSUserFiles/1505/Bob-biodiesel_feedstocks.jpgBiodiesel by Feedstock: 55%Soybean; 13% Yellow grease; 12% Corn; 10% Rapeseed (Canola); 10% animal fat.

/ARSUserFiles/1505/Bob-diesel_pump.jpgDiesel/Biodiesel fuel pump



/ARSUserFiles/1505/Bob-sorghum_DDGS.jpgSorghum DDGS



Dr. Robert O. Dunn, Jr. is a senior research chemical engineer with the Bio-Oils research (BOR) group at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in Peoria, IL.  The BOR group conducts basic and applied research to expand domestic use of products made from vegetable oils and their derivatives.  Dr. Dunn’s research largely focuses on renewable fuels and fuel additives, lubricants and biosorbents made from vegetable oils and fats.

Dr. Dunn earned a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Oklahoma in 1987 where he conducted the first comprehensive study on the use of low-energy micellar-enhanced ultrafiltration (MEUF) to treat wastewater streams.  From 1987-1988, Dr. Dunn served a post-doctorate appointment funded by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) at the Morgantown Energy Technology Center (METC) in Morgantown, WV working on surfactant-flooding systems for enhanced petroleum recovery.  Dr. Dunn joined the BOR staff at NCAUR in 1988 to develop technologies to improve the properties and performance of vegetable oil-based alternative fuels in direct-injection compression-ignition (diesel) engines.

 Dr. Dunn is recognized world-wide as an authority on the cold flow properties and oxidative stability of alternative diesel fuels and lubricants made from vegetable oils and fats.  Dr. Dunn’s findings were utilized as reference data in negotiations conducted by the National Biodiesel Board and the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) to establish the first fuel standard specification for biodiesel (specification D6751).

Dr. Dunn has more than 38 years professional experience in basic and applied research in the academic, industrial and government sectors.  Dr. Dunn has two patents and has authored or co-authored 97 published manuscripts including 27 book chapters and review articles.  Dr. Dunn has delivered 80 oral and poster presentations, including 37 invited presentations.  Dr. Dunn has co-chaired 17 technical sessions with six international conferences.  Dr. Dunn’s research has been featured in numerous news articles in publications including Agricultural Research, Biodiesel Magazine, Chemical Marketing Reporter, Inform, Lipid Technology Newsletter and Technical Insights’ Industrial Bioprocessing.


Click to Access my publications.