Lynd Research Lab
Focus, Approach, and Organization
The Lynd group, directed by Professor Lee Lynd, seeks to be of service by enabling and envisioning a transition from the non-sustainable present to a sustainable future, one of the primary challenges facing humanity in the twenty-first century. Our particular focus is on utilization of plant biomass, a central and essential intermediate in a world supported by sustainable resources. As presented in Figure 1, most paths from sustainable resources to human needs pass through either renewable electricity or biomass, with biomass being the sole foreseeable sustainable source of organic fuels, chemicals, and materials as well as food. We focus on cellulosic biomass because it has the greatest potential as an energy source among various forms of plant matter due to economic, scale of supply, and environmental considerations (Lynd et al 1999, Lynd et al 2003). We focus on transportation fuels because biomass can be converted to high performance liquid fuels whereas other large scale sustainable energy sources are most readily converted to electricity and heat.
Figure 1. Sustainable resource supply and utilization
A central theme of the group is processing cellulosic biomass in a single step without added enzymes. Such "consolidated bioprocessing" (CBP) is a potential breakthrough that would result in very large cost reductions as compared to the more conventional approach of producing saccharolytic enzymes in a dedicated process step (Lynd et al 1996, Lynd et al 2005). We are focused on production of ethanol, a promising renewable fuel (Lynd 1996, Greene et al 2004), via CBP. The CBP strategy is however potentially applicable to a very broad range of fuels and chemicals (Lynd et al 1999).
We approach sustainable production of biofuels from a diversity of academic disciplines including microbiology and molecular biology, chemical engineering, and resource systems analysis. Consistent with the "Pasteur's Quadrant" model articulated by Donald Stokes (Brookings Institution Press, Washington, DC, 1997), we see advancing applied capability and increased fundamental understanding as having strong potential to be convergent and mutually-reinforcing, and we aspire to work in this mode.
The Lynd lab, currently numbering 19 (see group members), is organized into areas - physiology, ecology, metabolic engineering, biochemical engineering, and big picture analysis. Our activities are enhanced by close collaborations with a network of colleagues around the world, the DOE Bioenergy Science Center, and Mascoma Corporation, for which Professor Lynd is Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer.