Roe-Hoan Yoon, who holds the Virginia Tech Nicholas T. Camicia Professorship, is a newly elected member of the National Academy of Engineering—the highest honor provided to members of the engineering profession.
Yoon, who arrived on the Virginia Tech campus in 1978 as a member of the College of Engineering’s mining and minerals engineering department, is known internationally for his significant contributions to the technology and science of mineral processing.
“The College of Engineering has long recognized the technological and scientific achievements of Yoon. He is a true pioneer in clean coal technology, working for more than 30 years in this field. His outstanding reputation has led to numerous awards, and he is well-known in Washington, D.C., especially by the Department of Energy for his work in the mining and minerals arena,” said Richard Benson, dean of the college.
Yoon directs the Center for Advanced Separation Technologies, founded in 2001 under the auspices of the Department of Energy. The center is a consortium of six universities in addition to Virginia Tech––West Virginia University, University of Kentucky, Montana Tech, University of Nevada at Reno, New Mexico Tech, and the University of Utah. Its goal is to develop advanced separation technologies that can be used to produce clean solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels from domestic energy resources in an efficient and environmentally acceptable manner.
In 1980, Yoon and his colleagues at Virginia Tech developed a technology of using small air bubbles, known as microbubbles, to produce clean coal from the coal fines discarded to waste ponds. This research project, funded by the Department of Energy, resulted in a commercially successful flotation technology, which is currently marketed by Metso Minerals and Eriez Magnetics under the trade name Microcel. The basic concept of using small air bubbles for separating fine particles has now been widely adopted in the flotation industry worldwide.
This technology can remove various impurities from coal including sulfur-containing minerals. The minerals are the sources of sulfur dioxide and mercury, which are the source of concerns for the use of coal.
Yoon and his colleagues at Virginia Tech, mining and minerals engineering faculty members Jerry Luttrell and Greg Adel, have developed many other technologies, including the methods of removing water from fine coal and mineral fines, separating impuries from kaolin clay, and an optical sensor for coal analysis.
Yoon earned his Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering from McGill University in 1977. He obtained his bachelor’s in mining engineering from Seoul National University in 1967.