Cellulosic Biofuels: A High-Beams Perspective

Lee Lynd, Professor of Engineering and Adjunct Professor of Biology, Thayer School of Engineering

Friday, October 5, 2007

Spanos Auditorium

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This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series

Prior to the first industrial revolution, people were scarce and resources were plentiful. Now confronted with the opposite circumstance, humanity must mount a second industrial revolution featuring population stabilization, increased energy utilization efficiency, and adoption of new renewable and sustainable energy supply technologies. Cellulosic biofuels are receiving increasing attention as a key component of this second industrial revolution, although this approach also has its critics.

This talk, intended for both technical and general audiences, will address the following questions:

Features of various biomass feedstocks will be compared. Alternative mature conversion technologies and technology configurations will be compared and evaluated in terms of cost effectiveness, thermodynamic efficiency, and greenhouse gas emission reductions based on results from the recently-completed Role of Biomass in America's Energy Future project, which Dr. Lynd co-led with Nathanael Greene of the National Resources Defense Council. The question of whether enough biomass could be produced to meaningfully contribute to meeting demand for energy services while honoring sustainability and environmental objectives will be addressed in some detail. The recalcitrance of cellulosic biomass - as opposed to feedstock cost or the cost of converting reactive intermediates to fuels - is identified as the key obstacle to be overcome in order to establish a viable industry. Consolidated bioprocessing will be addressed as an example of a breakthrough technology responsive to this obstacle.

About the Speaker

Lee Lynd is a Professor of Engineering and an Adjunct Professor of Biology at Dartmouth, where he has been on the faculty since 1987, and Professor Extraordinary of Microbiology at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. He is co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer for Mascoma Corp., a cellulosic ethanol start-up. Dr. Lynd holds a B.S. degree in biology from Bates College, an M.S. degree in bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin, and masters and doctoral degrees in engineering from Dartmouth. He is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, two-time recipient of the Charles A. Lindbergh Award in recognition of efforts to promote a balance between environmental preservation and technological advancement, recipient of the Charles D. Scott Award for distinguished contributions to the field of biotechnology for fuels and chemicals, and the inaugural recipient of the Lemelson-MIT sustainability award. Professor Lynd is an expert on utilization of plant biomass for production of energy. His contributions span the science, technology, and policy domains, and include leading research on fundamental and biotechnological aspects of microbial cellulose utilization. Topics addressed in over 70 archival publications, several comprehensive reviews, book chapters, and patents include fundamentals and applications of microbial cellulose utilization, use of recombinant DNA technology to develop advanced biocatalysts for biofuel production, kinetics and design of bioreactors for lignocellulose conversion, design and evaluation of industrial processes for bioenergy production, and envisioning the role of biomass in a sustainable world. Professional activities include serving as the biofuels industry representative on a committee advisory to the Executive Office of President Clinton on Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Personal Vehicles; Associate Editor of Biotechnology and Bioengineering; Organizing Committee Member, Annual Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals; Manager, Link Foundation Energy Fellowship Program; Member and R&D Area Coordinator, Biomass and Agriculture Working Group of the Energy Future Coalition; Advisory Committee Member, "Ethanol from Biomass: America's 21st Century Transportation Fuel" sponsored by the Governor's Ethanol Coalition and the Hewlett Foundation; Organizing Committee Member, American Academy of Microbiology Symposium on Microbial Energy Production; Chair, Cellulose Ethanol Summit Technical Briefing.