Bioenergy and Biofuels
Supervising Faculty: Terry Hazen
Izaak's general research focus is in the field of bioenergy and the related field of bio commodities. Today, most of the world’s energy and many useful commodities are derived from fossil fuels. However, both could instead be derived from a renewable resource, such as lignocellulose, which is the most abundant form of organic carbon. A fundamental problem with this idea is that lignocellulose is recalcitrant to enzymatic hydrolysis, and naturally cellulolytic microbes have poorly understood genetic systems and are difficult to cultivate. Currently, industry uses chemical treatments to separate lignin from the cellulose and hemicellulose fractions. This process is costly, relatively inefficient, produces substantial chemical waste, and requires further hydrolysis of cellulose and hemicellulose into monosaccharides. Once recovered, many of the monosaccharides are relatively easily metabolized by various organisms in, or near, the central metabolic pathway. Lignin, however, is a complex, heterogeneous polymer which is difficult to de-polymerize, and its aromatic monomers are not easily metabolized. The problem of efficient degradation of lignocellulose, especially the lignin fraction, and the conversion of lignocellulose degradation products into useful end-products are his primary research interests. The popular focus of this research area in the recent past has been for the production of biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol. However, there are many alternatives to ethanol that have higher energy content and are easier to isolate from industrial cultures. He also believes that the pioneering work on biofuels will lead to the production of many different bio-commodities, which will be a substantial market in the future.
Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry - University of California, Los Angeles
Bachelor of Science in Physiological Science - University of California, Los Angeles
Google Scholar profile: Izaak Miller