Biochemical Process Modeling and Simulation (BPMS)

Research output: NRELPresentation


The Biochemical Process Modeling and Simulation project aims to reduce the cost and time of research by applying theory, modeling, and simulation to the most relevant bottlenecks in the biochemical process. We use molecular modeling, quantum mechanics, metabolic modeling, fluid dynamics, and reaction-diffusion methods in close collaboration with pretreatment, hydrolysis, upgrading, and TEA. The project's outcomes are increased yields and efficiency of the biochemical process, added value to products, and reduced price of fuels by specifically targeting catalytic efficiency, reactor design, enzyme efficiency, and microbial design. We work closely with experimental projects to identify problems and iterate with experiments to find and refine solutions. By working with experimentalists, we decide on problems that can be solved with simulation that could otherwise not be solved or would take too long with experiment alone to reach BETO's targets. Over the years, we have produced solutions that have resulted in determining the most likely fatty-acid derivative for passive transport out of bacteria that upgrade biomass, and we have also designed enzyme mutations for enhanced lignin upgrading. Metabolic models have been developed to tune the activity of 2,3 butanediol production for the 2030 target. A computational method to deliver understanding of how complex omics data can be interpreted in the metabolic pathways of organisms used in the Agile Biofoundry. We have found methods to overcome specific barriers and continue to develop those methods. Our reactor studies have guided the design of both the microbes and reactors for aerobic and micro-aerobic production at all scales and have been instrumental in improving the accuracy of techno-economic analysis models. This project is essential in the process of selecting the final processes for 2030 SAF production targets. More specifically, recently, we have: 1) Predicted the strength of the basic structural interactions in commodity plastics to provide guidance for plastics upcycling strategies. 2) Developed computational tool to improve the characterization of lignin-derived compounds 3) Developed new methodologies to enable Machine Learning-based Directed Evolution for protein engineering. 4) Developed Machine Learning methods to predict protein promiscuity and mutations to further improve microbial and enzymatic driven processes and demonstrated the utility of ML approaches to engineering proteins from sparse experimental datasets. 5) Developed new methods to enable high-fidelity simulation of aerobic fermentation at industrial scale and resolving mismatch of time scales through subcycling/operator splitting 7) Identified the difficulty in preventing local high-oxygen conditions in industrial bubble columns, which leads to less-desirable acetoin production, suggesting future research directions in alternative reactor configurations (e.g loop reactors, shallow-channel reactors).
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages25
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the 2023 U.S. Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) Project Peer Review, 3-7 April 2023, Denver, Colorado

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-2700-85595


  • fermentation
  • machine learning
  • modeling
  • molecular dynamics
  • proteins
  • reactor design


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