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

Steven C Cermak (Steve)

Research Leader

USDA logo

Steven C. Cermak, Ph.D.

Phone: (309) 681-6233 / (309) 210-1553
Room 1201
Bio-Oils Research
1815 N University St.
Peoria IL 61604

Synthetic Products and Processes from New Crops

Research Leader, Lead Scientist, and with a PhD in organic chemistry 
Modification of vegetable oils and agricultural products for non-food applications
Utilizing new or off-season crops: Lesquerella, pennycress, coriander, camelina, cuphea, and hemp for use as lubricants, fuels, cosmetics, viscosity modifiers, insecticides, and industrial products (lab- and pilot-scale)
Soybean analysis for ARS breeders NIR analysis for moisture, oil and protein
Over 100 peer-reviewed publications and patents (ORCID: 0000-0002-8032-6064)

Research on Bio-Based Lubricants

Synthesized estolides as a base oil lubricant and additive packages
 Tested physical and lubrication properties
  o Pour and Cloud Points
  o Acid Values 
  o Viscosity and Viscosity Index
  o Oxidative Stability - PVROT
  o Evaporative Loss
  o Flash Point
  o Field Tests
 Patented IP with pilot-scale production
 Evaluated in greases, hydraulic fluids, gear oils, and metal working fluids
 Current collaboration with industry partner to further commercialize estolides
 FLC and ARS Technology Transfer Awards

/ARSUserFiles/932/Cermak-FLC_award.jpgFTL Excellence in Technology Transfer Award

Commercial Engine oil, based on estolides


Schematics of synthesis of (1st generation) estolides

Las Vegas Taxi Field Trial - 150k miles;
Left: Engine with typical petroleum motor oil; Right: Byosynthetic base oil + Group III blend

Pour points of estolides, compared to commercial engine oils

Research on the Advancement of Industrial Crops and Products

Developed processes for the production of new crops (cuphea and pennycress)
 Developed cosmetic products and processes from meadowfoam oil
 Developed insect repellent and delivery systems from cuphea and coconut oils
 Developing industrial products from hemp oil
 Synthetic and distillation experience on pilot plant scale and crop production
 Experience working with collaborators
 Association for the Advancement of Industrial Crops Award


/ARSUserFiles/932/Cermak-Pennycress_oil_refining.jpgPennycress Oil processing
/ARSUserFiles/932/Cermak-Cuphea_flower-bee.pngCuphea flower and bee


Dr. Cermak was trained as an organic chemist at the University of Iowa and has over 20 years of research experience in the Bio-oils Research (BOR) Unit at NCAUR.  He currently serves as Research Leader for the BOR Unit and Lead Scientist of the new crops CRIS (185).  He has co-authored more than 100 publications and 6 patents.  His research accomplishments are well recognized nationally and internationally as evidenced by numerous invitations to speak at national and international meetings (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Chile, and Canada) and special invitations to industry and specialty groups.

Dr. Cermak was recognized by the American Oil Chemists' Society (AOCS) in 2001 by receiving the New Crop sessions "Outstanding Paper Presentation."  He was awarded the 2006 "Researcher of the Year" Award by an international society (Association for the Advancement of Industrial Crops, AAIC).  In 2011 and 2016, Dr. Cermak was awarded the Technology Transfer Midwest Region Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer by the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC).  He served as chair of the 2009 International AAIC Meeting, Chile.  He organized and served as chair for the 2004 Great Lakes Regional American Chemical Society (ACS) Meeting; additionally, served as treasurer (four years) for the award-winning Peoria ACS Section. He also serves on the Editorial Board of the Industrial Crops and Products Journal.

Dr. Cermak has also served as Principal Investigator (PI) on six agreements for the development of lubricants and development of cuphea as well as PI on four CRADAs for the development of lubricants.  His research has been directed toward synthetic and mechanistic organic chemistry, chemistry of fats/oils and the development of products from new crops.

The objective of Dr. Cermak's research is to develop new concepts and new industrial products and processes in utilizing new crops or off-season crops (lesquerella, pennycress, coriander, and hemp) and other oils for the U.S.  Specific areas of study include:

   - Lubrication - developments of new and biobased drop-ins
   - Vegetable based lubrication enhanced physical properties
   - Cosmetics - developments of new and biobased drop-ins
   - New crops selections for the U.S.
   - Industrial/Commercial biobased drop-ins
   - Identification of new crops

 Tellus News Publication

     Cuphea Oil Chemical Repels Pests 

Click to Access my publications