Skip to main content

Affiliated Research Programs

  • Purdue University Discover Park, The Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels

  • BioEnergy Science Center

  • Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office

Areas of Expertise

I apply my background in structural biology and plant/algal cell biology to address questions about the cellular mechanisms involved in cell wall assembly, the biochemical and biophysical principles that determine the architecture of cell wall biopolymers, and revealing the mechanisms of enzymes and microbes that deconstruct cell walls.

NREL's Biomass Surface Characterization Laboratory is a collection of imaging technologies including laser scanning confocal microscopy, confocal Raman microscopy, environmental scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy, which we use to better understand structural changes during biomass conversion.

We are expert at biomass sample preparation including cryopreservation, ultra-microtomy, immuno-EM, and using electron tomography as a technique to study the complex 3-D architecture of the plant and algal cell walls at the macromolecular scale.


  • Ph.D., Molecular/Cellular Biology, University of Colorado at Boulder

  • M.A., Biology, University of Colorado at Denver

  • B.S., Biological Science, Colorado State University


  • Member of Microscopy Society of America

  • Member of American Society of Plant Biologists


  1. "Disruption of cell walls for enhanced lipid recovery," U.S. Patent No. 8,986,977 (2015)

Featured Publications

  1. "Disruption of Mediator rescues the stunted growth of a lignin-deficient Arabidopsis mutant," Nature (2014)

  2. "Effect of mechanical disruption on the effectiveness of three reactors used for dilute acid pretreatment of corn stover Part 2: morphological and structural substrate analysis," Biotechnology for Biofuels (2014)

  3. "Revealing Nature's Cellulase Diversity: The Digestion Mechanism of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii CelA," Science (2013)

  4. "Fungal cellulases and complexed cellulosomal enzymes exhibit synergistic mechanisms in cellulose deconstruction," Energy & Environmental Science (2013)

  5. "3D Electron Tomography of Pretreated Biomass Informs Atomic Modeling of Cellulose Microfibrils," ACS Nano (2013)

  6. "Cis-golgi cisternal assembly and biosynthetic activation occur sequentially in plants and algae," Traffic (2013)

  7. "Multi-scale visualization and characterization of lignocellulosic plant cell wall deconstruction during thermochemical pretreatment," Energy & Environmental Science (2011)

  8. "Elucidation of Biomass Pyrolysis Products Using a Laminar Entrained Flow Reactor and Char Particle Imaging," Energy & Fuels (2011)

  9. "Real-time and post-reaction microscopic structural analysis of biomass undergoing pyrolysis," Energy & Fuels (2009)

  10. "Detecting cellulase penetration into corn stover cell walls by immuno-electron microscopy," Biotechnology and Bioengineering (2009)

  11. "Visualizing lignin coalescence and migration through maize cell walls following thermochemical pretreatment," Biotechnology and Bioengineering (2008)

  12. "Identification and characterization of COPIa- and COPIb-type vesicle classes associated with plant and algal Golgi," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2006)

View all NREL Publications for Bryon Donohoe.