Beyond Ethanol: Advanced Biofuels Research at the Joint BioEnergy Institute

Michael Smith Laboratories
Seminar Series
Dr. Blake Simmons
Vice-President, Deconstruction Division
Joint BioEnergy Institute

Deputy Director
Biofuels and Biomaterials Science and Technology
Biofuels Program Lead
Sandia National Laboratories

Monday, March 21 at 4 pm
MSL Auditorium – 2185 East Mall
Beyond Ethanol: Advanced Biofuels Research at the Joint BioEnergy Institute

Today, carbon-rich fossil fuels, primarily oil, coal and natural gas, provide 85% of the energy
consumed in the United States. Fossil fuel use increases CO2 emissions, increasing the
concentration of greenhouse gases and raising the risk of global warming. The high energy
content of liquid hydrocarbon fuels makes them the preferred energy source for all modes of
transportation. In the US alone, transportation consumes around 13.8 million barrels of oil per
day and generates over 0.5 gigatons of carbon per year. This has spurred intense research into
alternative, non-fossil energy sources. The DOE-funded Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) is a
partnership between six leading research institutions (Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Sandia Labs,
Lawrence Livermore Lab, UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis, and the Carnegie Institute for Science) that is
focused on the production of infrastructure compatible biofuels derived from non-food
lignocellulosic biomass. Biomass is a renewable resource that is potentially carbon-neutral.
Plant-derived biomass contains cellulose, which is more difficult to convert to sugars. The
development of cost-effective and energy-efficient processes to transform cellulose and
hemicellulose in biomass into fuels is hampered by significant roadblocks, including the lack of
specifically developed energy crops, the difficulty in separating biomass components, low
activity of enzymes used to hydrolyze polysaccharides, and the inhibitory effect of fuels and
processing byproducts on the organisms responsible for producing fuels from monomeric sugars.
This presentation will highlight the research efforts underway at JBEI to overcome these

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