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ENGR 660 Fundamentals of Biofuels

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Return to the Graduate Certificate in Renewable Energy program description.

An interdisciplinary approach to the exploration of the fundamentals and application of biofuels in today's energy and environmental challenges. This course will not apply towards graduate programs in engineering.

About the Course

We are currently facing both energy and environmental challenges. In this course, we will explore how biofuels offer potential solutions to these issues. Biofuels is an interdisciplinary topic, so we will investigate the science and engineering, economics, societal impacts and the political aspects of biofuels including both ethanol and biodiesel.

The course will provide a broad understanding of the impacts and implications of biofuels use through an investigation of:

  • The engineering and science of fuel production and use
  • The economics of biofuels production and use
  • The environmental impacts of both ethanol and biodiesel
  • The policies and environmental issues driving the use of biofuels as well as the societal impacts.

Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, a student will:

  • Have an understanding of the role of bio-ethanol and biodiesel in transportation fuels.
  • Have an understanding of the production processes of bio-ethanol and biodiesel
  • Have a basic understanding of the fuel specifications and chemical properties of biofuels
  • Have a knowledge base of the variety of feedstocks used to produce biofuels
  • Understand the importance of biofuels policies and regulations
  • Understand the importance of life cycle assessments o f biofuels and be able to describe the well-to-wheels system boundaries.
  • Have an understanding of the sustainability issues and controversy of biofuels use, including the carbon and green house gas accounting


Amber Broch

Amber Broch is an associate research engineer at the Desert Research Institute. Her focus of research is on renewable energy related technologies. This has included alternative-fueled vehicles conversion, testing and modeling (CNG and hydrogen); biofuels research including life cycle modeling, land use changes, and environmental impacts; and biomass-to-fuel conversion technologies.

Ms. Broch also serves as the lab manager in DRI's energy lab, and is an instructor in the University's Mechanical Engineering Department.

Curtis Robbins

Curtis Robbins is an assistant research engineer at the Desert Research Institute, working in the Bio-Energy Group within Atmospheric Sciences. He is the PI on DRI's REDD (Renewable Energy Deployment and Display) Facility, which consists of a house and workshop run off of solar and wind for electricity, heating, and cooling.

His main focus areas are currently solar energy and biomass with an emphasis on system design and integration. He has worked on projects that include solar air collectors, solar hot water systems, PV cell testing, Syngas sampling and analysis, gasification, hydrothermal carbonization, hydrogen combustion, and thermoelectrics.

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