Dr. Ciolkosz is a research and extension associate in Penn State’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. He works to develop engineering knowhow that will help Pennsylvania’s farms produce bioenergy and improve energy efficiency. This includes a variety of extension efforts with farmers, business developers, landowners, and biomass end users. The specific work can take on many forms, such as providing technical advice to individuals, hosting advanced bioenergy short courses, editing new books on wood energy, helping schools and other institutions consider renewable biomass as an energy source, and participating in regional outreach efforts such as the Northeast Farm Energy IQ project.
On the research side of things, he currently focuses on the biomass densification and thermochemical conversion. Densification, such as pelletizing, is an important process for creating high value biomass fuels and other products. However, it is both labor- and energy- intensive. A better understanding of the densification process can help us improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the process. A special focus of his work is on small scale pelletizing – devices that could be owned and operated by a single farmer. Thermochemical conversion of biomass is the process of heating biomass to change its chemical structure. Doing this can change the properties of the material, turning it into a solid, liquid, or gas – all of which have unique properties and potential uses. When he is not busy with those things, he also works in the areas of agricultural facility analysis and energy use characterization, and controlled environment systems.
His background includes experience as an energy consultant as well as a faculty position at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. He coordinates the “On-Farm Bio-Based Energy Production and Use” initiative for Penn State Extension. He also serves as academic program coordinator for the online Inter-College Master’s degree program in Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems (RESS). In addition to that, he is the education program lead for the NEWBio Northeast Bioenergy regional project. Dr Ciolkosz is a member of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.