Blake A. Simmons
Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI)
Dr. Simmons joined Sandia National Laboratories (Livermore, CA, www.energy.sandia.gov) in 2001 as a Senior Member of the Technical Staff, serving as a member of the Materials Chemistry Department. He was promoted to Manager of the Energy Systems Department in 2006. The primary focus of the department was the development of novel materials-based solutions to meet the nation’s growing energy demands. In 2007, he was one of the principal co-investigators of the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI, www.jbei.org), a ten year, $259M DOE funded project tasked with the development and realization of next-generation biofuels produced from non-food crops. He is currently serving as the Chief Science and Technology Officer and the Vice-President of the Deconstruction Division at JBEI, where he leads a team of 41 researchers working on advanced methods of liberating fermentable sugars from lignocellulosic biomass. He is also the Senior Manager of the Advanced Biomanufacturing Group at Sandia and serves as the Laboratory Relationship Manager for the Biomass Program. He has over 250 publications, book chapters, and patents. His work has been featured in the New York Times, BBC, the Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, Fast Company, and the KQED televised science program Quest.
With a background in biofuel cells, nanophotonic materials, micro- and nanofluidics, desalination, biomineralization and enzyme engineering, Blake Simmons brings a wealth of research experience to the Deconstruction Division. Simmons has been responsible for overseeing the development of more energy-efficient and cost-effective methods to achieve the first step in bioenergy production: deconstructing biomass into fermentable sugars. Deconstruction researchers are developing various strategies for affecting these goals, including identifying microbes that have evolved to naturally break down biomass within a community, which become sources for efficient enzyme cocktails that could be used in the biomanufacturing process. In addition, scientists have developed new techniques, such as a one-pot ionic liquid pretreatment procedure that will reduce waste and cost, and another that does not require the use of expensive enzyme additives for pre-treating biomass and breaking it down into fuel sugars.