COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University scientist Harold Keener, an expert on the engineering of composting systems, biomass energy systems and plant-based bioproducts, yesterday (4/28) was named winner of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s (OARDC) 2011 Distinguished Senior Faculty Research Award. The award honors outstanding achievements by an OARDC faculty member at the rank of professor.
Part of the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering (FABE), Keener is currently leading two bioproduct-related projects with industry: optimizing the processing of natural fibers for manufacturing new biocomposites; and refining a process to convert swine manure into a substitute component in asphalt.
“His collaboration with stakeholders has greatly expanded the impact of his research beyond the lab,” OARDC Director Steve Slack said.
Keener “is sought after as a collaborator on interdisciplinary research projects for both his expertise in systems analysis and his ability to provide creative yet pragmatic approaches and solutions that strengthen the project,” one of his nominators wrote.
In 1980, Keener established OARDC’s Biomass Combustion Laboratory to study the burning of corn cobs, shelled corn and high-sulfur coal in a small-scale fluidized bed combustion system, work that led to the development of a new commercial fluidized bed burner for heating greenhouses.
In 1997, he led the design and development of OARDC’s Composting Research Laboratory, a facility considered one of the best in the world for pilot-scale composting research and that in 2009 was renamed the Bioproducts and Bioenergy Research Laboratory to reflect the widened scope of its work.
Keener has developed new processes for composting dead livestock -- methods that have been incorporated into the standards manual of the Ohio Natural Resources Conservation Service and that serve as the basis for Ohio’s acclaimed certification course on dead-animal composting.
Additionally, he has provided technical expertise on the design of innovative manure handling systems for swine and poultry producers, including Daylay Egg Farm’s composting facility for unamended poultry manure and 4-M Farm’s high-rise hog building, a unique system for handling swine manure as a solid to enhance its composting.
“Dr. Keener seeks opportunities to encourage faculty, students and staff to take on new challenges that expand both their knowledge and skills,” a nominator wrote. “His contributions to the mission of OARDC and to the larger agricultural community are substantial.”
During his career, Keener has received more than $8.5 million in grants and contracts as either principal investigator or co-principal investigator. He holds four patents and has written two books, eight book chapters, 108 peer- or editor-reviewed journal articles, and many other publications. An article of his on composting dead livestock received the 2001 Superior Paper Award from the American Society of Agricultural Engineers.
Among his other honors are the 2008 Lumley Research Award from Ohio State’s College of Engineering, the 2008 Council for Agricultural Science and Technology Educational Materials Award, the 2006 Rufus Chaney Award for Research Excellence from the U.S. Composting Council, and FABE’s 2000 and 1998 departmental research awards.
The OARDC award carries with it a plaque, $1,000 to Keener plus $3,000 to the operating account of his research program. The award was presented in a ceremony during OARDC’s 2011 Annual Research Conference in Columbus.
OARDC scientists Charles Goebel (chair), Katrina Cornish, Kristy Daniels, Terry Graham, Ron Hammond and Linda Saif formed the selection committee.
Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro delivered the keynote address at the conference, which took place at Ohio State’s LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.
OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and is the largest university agricultural bioscience research center in the United States.