Prof. Robert Dibble becomes Professor Emeritus

06 October, 2021

Prof. Dibble with Prof. Sarathy at his home in Berkeley.


- Article by Raheena Abdurehim

Towards the end of 2019, we said goodbye to Prof. Robert Dibble, who worked with the CCRC as a Full Professor of Mechanical Engineering since 2014. Now as a Professor Emeritus, he still provides support and guidance to the CCRC researchers and students. We caught up with him recently and here is what he shared. 

“Helen and I came to the CCRC thinking we would stay a year or two. We stayed 5 years, a testimony as to how much fun and excitement we enjoyed. Leaving CCRC was a retirement accelerated by Covid. From the vibrant CCRC and KAUST I, like many other people, transitioned to staying in my home office for the last 2 years, as the Berkeley Campus was largely empty,” he said. 

“I have been working on a design to convert the 100 million dead trees in Western North America to H2 and CO2. I remind you, on an atom basis, a tree is 50% hydrogen! The idea is to collect the trees and then gasify them to make hydrogen and carbon dioxide that you then store in the earth. What I discovered was the cost to do all of this was near a billion dollars and thus it is not obvious that converting trees to hydrogen is the best use of money that may be better invested into wind power and solar PV.”

His advice to future engineers

“Sometimes you may hear that Science and Engineering are different career paths. But, long ago, I was lectured that Engineering is Science with a profit constraint. This definition has served me well. Thus a good engineer has to be well-founded in Science and also has to have an eye on Finance. A case in point, see above, my efforts on converting trees to hydrogen are held back by economics.

Engineers also discover that good writing skills are an important ingredient for Engineering success, the good news is that better writing emerges from better reading, thus it is good if you can read novels regularly, say once a month as a target.”


Originally posted in the CCRC Newletter, Fall 2021 edition.