Director, Penn State Biomass Energy Center and Associate Professor, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
The Pennsylvania State University
Recent advances in understanding the biology of plant cells and dramatic reductions in the cost of enzymes create new opportunities to implement biocatalysis as an alternative pretreatment paradigm for conversion of lignocellulose to alcohols and other chemicals. We have been investigating the use of enzymes, expansins and organic acids in ensiled storage systems to partially pretreat biomass and reduce required pretreatment severity. Chemical and thermal pretreatment techniques currently constitute over 30% of the costs of biomass conversion to ethanol, so integration of biological approaches with pretreatment could could increase the economic viability of this industry.