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Photo of Melvin P. Tucker

Melvin Tucker

Researcher V-Chemical Engineering | 303-384-6264

Research Interests

A photo of a meadow and forest and jet airplane in the sky in the background covered by illustrations of white and grey molecular structures leading to a fuel nozzle with yellow liquid fuel and white molecular structures coming out of the nozzle.

Mel Tucker is Principal Investigator for the Pretreatment and Process Hydrolysis project in the National Bioenergy Center at NREL that closely collaborates with other projects in the Biochemical Conversion Platform. He has more than 34 years of research experience in the biochemical conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to biofuels and products, with extensive expertise in high solids pretreatment, high solids enzymatic hydrolysis, cloning, bioprospecting, operations at the bench and pilot scale, analytical techniques, high-performance liquid chromatography, and spectroscopic techniques (Fourier transform infrared, ultraviolet-visible, nuclear magnetic resonance, etc.). He has authored/co-authored more than 90 peer-reviewed publications and is a co-inventor on 13 U.S. Patents. He currently leads a multi-disciplinary team of engineers, biochemists, chemists, and molecular biologist to deconstruct biomass into high concentration, low toxicity sugar syrups and highly reactive lignin streams.

Mel is also involved in research within the Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels (C3Bio), which is tasked with decreasing the recalcitrance of biomass to thermochemical and biological deconstruction by genetically engineering energy crops to incorporate metal catalysts into the cell wall during growth and/or senescence to aid in deconstruction of the cell wall polymers. He is also a member of the Characterization and Modeling Team within the multi-institutional BioEnergy Sciences Center (BESC) that is tasked with the pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis of more than 25,000 samples of natural variants and genetically engineered energy crops. This task is made easier by the high-throughput pretreatment equipment and assays that he helped develop.

Other research interests include:

  • High solids pretreatment technologies

  • High solids enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentations

  • Deconstruction of biomass with mechanical refining

  • Biomass ultrastructure

  • Engineering energy crops with reduced recalcitrance and catalysts incorporated in the cell wall to aid in deconstruction of the cell wall polymers into simpler molecules

Affiliated Research Programs


  • Ph.D., Biochemistry, Colorado State University, 1982

  • B.S., Chemistry, Metropolitan State College, 1977


  1. "Treatment of Biomass to Obtain Ethanol," U.S. Patent No. 7,998,713 (2011)

  2. "Treatment of Biomass to Obtain Fermentable Sugars," U.S. Patent No. 7,932,063 (2011)

  3. "Integration of Alternative Feedstreams for Biomass Treatment and Utilization," U.S. Patent No. 7,910,338 (2011)

  4. "Biomass Treatment Method," U.S. Patent No. 7,819,976 (2010)

  5. "Process for Concentrated Biomass Saccharification," U.S. Patent No. 7,807,419 (2010)

  6. "Treatment of Biomass to Obtain a Target Chemical," U.S. Patent No. 7,781,191 (2010)

  7. "Ethanol Production with Dilute Acid Hydrolysis Using Partially Dried Lignocellulosics," U.S. Patent No. 6,660,506 (2003)

  8. "Dilute Acid/Metal Salt Hydrolysis of Lignocellulosics," U.S. Patent No. 6,423,145 (2002)

  9. "Cloning of Cellulase Genes from Acidothermus cellulolyticus," U.S. Patent No. 5,514,584 (1996)

  10. "Low Molecular Weight Thermostable β-D-Glucosidase from Acidothermus cellulolyticus," U.S. Patent No. 5,432,075 (1995)

  11. "Combined Enzyme Mediated Fermentation of Cellulose and Xylose to Ethanol by Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Cellulase, β-Glucosidase, and Xylose Isomerase," U.S. Patent No. 5,372,939 (1994)

  12. "Thermostable Purified Endoglucanase from Acidothermus cellulolyticus ATCC 43068," U.S. Patent No. 5,275,944 (1994)

  13. "Thermostable Purified Endoglucanase from Thermophilic Bacterium Acidothermus cellulolyticus," U.S. Patent No. 5,110,735 (1992)

Featured Publications

  1. "Cell Wall Targeted in planta Iron Accumulation Enhances Biomass Conversion and Seed Iron Concentration in Arabidopsis and Rice," Plant Biotechnology Journal (2016)

  2. "DMR (Deacetylation and Mechanical Refining) Processing of Corn stover Achieves High Monomeric Sugar Concentrations (230 g/L-1) During Enzymatic Hydrolysis and High Ethanol Concentrations (>10% v/v) During Fermentation Without Hydrolysate Purification or Concentration," Energy and Environmental Sciences (2016)

  3. "Biomass-derived Lignin to Jet Fuel Range Hydrocarbons via Aqueous Phase Hydrodeoxygenation," Green Chemistry Communication (2015)

  4. "In situ Micro-Spectroscopic Investigation of Lignin in Poplar Cell Walls Pretreated by Maleic Acid," Biotechnology for Biofuels (2015)

  5. "Controlling Porosity in Lignin-Derived Nanoporous Carbon for Supercapacitor Applications," ChemSusChemCommunications (2015)

  6. "Transgenic Ferritin Overproduction Enhances Thermochemical Pretreatments in Arabidopsis," Biomass Bioenergy (2015)

  7. "Identifying the Ionically Bound Cell Wall and Intracellular Glycoside Hydrolases in Late Growth Stage Arabidopsis Stems: Implications for the Genetic Engineering of Bioenergy Crops," Frontiers in Plant Science (2015)

  8. "Chapter 1: Feedstock Engineering and Biomass Pretreatments: New Views for a Greener Biofuels Process," in Direct Microbial Conversion of Biomass to Advanced Biofuels (2015)

  9. "Multiphysics Modeling and Simulation of High-Solids Dilute-Acid Pretreatment of Corn Stover in a Steam-Explosion Reactor," Chemical Engineering Journal (2015)

  10. "Noble-Metal Catalyzed Hydrodeoxygenation of Biomass-Derived Lignin to Aromatic Hydrocarbons," Green Chemistry (2014)

Additional Publications

  1. "Chapter 23: Laboratory Pretreatment Systems to Understand Biomass Deconstruction," in Aqueous Pretreatment of Plant Biomass for Biological and Chemical Conversion to Fuels and Chemicals (2013)