Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts Process Development Unit (ABPDU)
at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Emeryville, California
Company size: 20
Est. number of positions: 1-2

Opportunity for remote/virtual internship in 2022: No, in-person only


The Advanced Biofuels Process Development Unit (ABPDU) – within Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory – is a research group specializing in process optimization, intensification, and scale-up for industrial biotechnology. At ABPDU, we partner with industry and national laboratory researchers to improve the efficiency and intensity of bioconversion technologies, integrate novel unit operations, and evaluate scale-up to 300 L fermentation. Our research helps de-risk technologies by enabling process development and piloting at an early stage of technology development, allowing small companies to raise funds and scale with confidence. In addition, we serve as a bridge between industrial partners and basic technology developers, helping to develop enabling technologies for the bioprocess industries, and matching emerging technologies with industry needs.

Potential Internship Project Description:
–This description represents a potential internship project and is subject to change.–

(Updated 10/13/21)

Biomanufacturing with gaseous feedstocks: Gaseous fermentation feedstocks – including syngas, methane, and hydrogen – present a compelling opportunity to support conversion of biomass via metabolic funneling to biogas or syngas intermediates. In addition to biomass conversion, the declining cost of electric power has created new opportunities to achieve biological CO2 utilization and enhance carbon efficiency of heterotrophic biochemical processes via hybridization of biochemical and electrochemical approaches. Each of these approaches requires operation with energetic gaseous molecules, requiring high gas transfer rates, tight closure of gaseous mass balances, and stringent attention to safety protocols. In this project, interns will utilize existing strains engineered by LBNL researchers to develop intensified processes for direct conversion of both hydrogen and methane gases to energy-dense products. Scale-up protocols and process intensification data will be developed for hydrogen and methane utilizing strains, providing data for the broader community and developing capabilities to be leveraged in future collaborations. This effort will leverage unique laboratory capabilities at ABPDU, including pressurizable 500 mL and 20 L fermentors custom-designed for use with flammable gaseous feedstocks.

Predictive scale-up of biofuel technologies: Scale-up process development is often seen as more of an art than a science. Lab-scale tests in microtiter plates are subject to capillary effects and thereby do not represent scale-up performance that involves turbulence and heterogeneities. Large scale reactor studies can be resource intensive, minimizing the number of studies that can be performed. Experimental throughput leads to low representation of the experimental space, creating a restricted understanding of scale-up performance and increasing risk of failure during scale-up. In this project, interns will help establish scientific methods needed to accelerate fermentation process development in bioreactors, utilizing the knowledge available at the ABPDU to inform third-wave artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) based methods developed at LBNL and UC Berkeley. The AI/ML methods will also utilize real-time data and execute effective interventions and adapt ongoing fermentations towards better titer, rates, and yields, creating the potential to significantly improve testing efficiency and expand testing to parameter space typically neglected due to resource constraints.