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James D. McMillan

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James D. ("Jim") McMillan is Chief Engineer for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL's) National Bioenergy Center (NBC), which works to advance lignocellulosic and algal biorefining science and technology. His primary research and development focus is on lignocellulosic biomass conversion process technology development, integration and scale up. He has more than 25 years of research experience on biochemical or sugar platform approaches to biomass conversion and integrating the key processing steps of pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, and fermentation/microbial conversion to efficiently and cost effectively produce biofuels and bio-based chemicals from cellulosic feedstocks.

Jim currently co-leads NREL's Biomass Program's Integrated Biochemical Process Improvements Validation task. Previously, he also led NREL's Enzyme Validation task. These validation tasks support the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) by auditing and verifying performance and cost improvements being achieved in DOE cost-shared projects in these technical areas. Additionally, Jim currently leads the International Energy Agency's Bioenergy Task 39, which is focused on accelerating technology development and commercialization of liquid biofuels, and he co-chairs the annual Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals.

Jim is on the editorial board for the open access journal Biotechnology for Biofuels and he is also a reviewer for several other journals and U.S. and international funding agencies. He is a member of the American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), where, as a former elected director of the Food, Pharmaceutical, and Bioengineering Division, he helped to grow AIChE's biorefinery-related programming (which has since become part of AIChE's Sustainable Engineering Forum). Jim has served on numerous doctoral and masters students' theses committees, and he is or has been an adjunct faculty member in the Colorado State University, University of Colorado, and University of Puerto Rico chemical engineering departments. Overall, Jim is a co-inventor on two issued patents, co-recipient of two R&D 100 awards, and author or co-author of eight book chapters, 45 peer-reviewed publications, more than three dozen non-published technical reports, and more than 150 posters and presentations.


Ph.D., Biochemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, June 1990
M.S., Chemical Engineering Practice, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, February 1985
B.S., Chemical Engineering, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, graduated with High Distinction, 1982

Professional Experience

  • Chief Engineer, National Bioenergy Center (NBC), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Golden, CO, 2014–present
  • Group Manager, Biochemical Process Science & Engineering, NBC, NREL, Golden, CO, 2007–2013
  • Co-Leader, IEA Bioenergy Task 39 (Liquid Biofuels), International Energy Agency Bioenergy Implementing Agreement, 2010–present
  • Senior II Group Manager, Biochemical Refining Process R&D, NBC, NREL, Golden, CO, 2004–2006
  • Senior Biochemical Engineer II, NBC, NREL, 1998–2004
  • Senior Biochemical Engineer I, NREL Biotechnology Center, 1994–1998
  • Staff Biochemical Engineer, SERI/NREL Alternative Fuels Division, 1990–1994

Research Interests

  • Lignocellulosic biomass compositional analysis
  • Biomass deconstruction via pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis
  • Submerged enzyme production, particularly on biomass-derived carbon sources
  • Mixed sugar fermentation to fuels and chemicals, including hydrolyzate toxicity issues
  • Biorefinery process development and integration
  • Monitoring and control of biochemical conversion processes, including mass balancing
  • Conversion process performance validation

Selected Publications

  1. Katatzos, S.; McMillan, J.D.; Saddler, J.N. (2014). "The potential and challenges of drop-in biofuels." A Report by IEA Bioenergy Task 39, Report T39-T1.

  2. McMillan, J.D.; Jennings, E.W.; Mohagheghi, A.; Zuccarello, M. (2011). "Comparative Performance of Pre-commercial Cellulases Hydrolyzing Pretreated Corn Stover." Biotechnology for Biofuels, 4: 29.

  3. Zhu, Y.; Malten, M.; Torry-Smith, M.; McMillan, J.D.; Stickel, J.J. (2010). "Calculating Sugar Yields in High Solids Hydrolysis of Biomass."  Bioresource Technol., 102: 2897-2903.

  4. Zhu, Z.G.; Sathitsuksanoh, N.; Vinzant, T.; Schell, D.J.; McMillan, J.D.; Zhang, Y. P.-H. (2009). "Comparative Study of Corn Stover Pretreated by Dilute Acid and Cellulose Solvent-Based Lignocellulose Fractionation: Enzymatic Hydrolysis, Supramolecular Structure, and Substrate Accessibility." Biotechnol. Bioeng., 103: 715-724.

  5. Viamajala, S.; McMillan, J.D.; Schell, D.J.; Elander, R.T. (2009). "Rheology of Corn Stover Slurries at High Solids Concentrations—Effects of Saccharification and Particle Size." Bioresource Technol., 100: 925-934.

  6. Hodge, D.B.; Karim, M.N.; Schell, D.J.; McMillan, J.D. (2008). "Soluble and Insoluble Solids Contribution to High-Solids Enzymatic Hydrolysis of Lignocellulose." Bioresource Technol. 99: 8940-8948.

  7. Zhang, Y-H. P.; Schell, D.J.; McMillan, J.D. (2007). "Methodological Analysis for Determination of Enzymatic Digestibility of Cellulosic Materials." Biotech. Bioeng. 96: 188-194.

  8. Altintas, M.M.; Eddy, C.K.; Zhang, M.; McMillan, J.D.; Kompala, D.S. (2006). "Kinetic Modeling to Optimize Pentose Fermentation in Zymomonas mobilis." Biotech. Bioeng. 94: 273-295.

  9. Sáez-Miranda, J.C.; Saliceti-Piazza, L.; McMillan, J.D. (2006). "Measurement and Analysis of Intracellular ATP Levels in Metabolically Engineered Zymomonas mobilis Fermenting Glucose and Xylose Mixtures." Biotechnol. Prog. 22: 359-368.

  10. Schell, D.J.; Farmer, J.; Newman, M.; McMillan, J.D. (2003). "Dilute Sulfuric Acid Pretreatment of Corn Stover in a Pilot-Scale Reactor: Investigation of Yields, Kinetics, and Solids Enzymatic Digestibilities." Appl. Biochem. Biotechnol. 105-108: 69-85.

  11. McMillan, J.D.; Newman, M.M.; Templeton, D.W.; Mohagheghi, A. (1999). "Simultaneous Saccharification and Cofermentation of Dilute-acid Pretreated Yellow Poplar Hardwood to Ethanol Using Xylose-Fermenting Zymomonas mobilis." Appl. Biochem. Biotechnol. 77-79: 649-665.

Contact Information

James D. McMillan, Ph.D.
Chief Engineer
National Bioenergy Center
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
15013 Denver West Parkway, MS 3511
Golden, CO 80401
Phone: 303-384-6861