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Michael Resch

Bioconversion Specialist | 303-384-6521

Research Interests

Dr. Michael Resch holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Colorado State University. His dissertation work focused on the biophysical and structural properties of nucleosomes and chromatin arrays in vitro in the laboratories of Dr. Karolin Luger and Dr. Jeffery Hansen at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Dr. Resch's career at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) began in 2008 as a postdoctoral researcher working on cellulase and hemicellulase enzyme characterization, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through the BioEnergy Science Center and the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). The ultimate goal of these studies was to improve the hydrolysis efficiency of cellulase and hemicellulase enzyme digestion of biomass. This work helped NREL lower the industrial cost of lignocellulosic enzyme conversion of biomass to sugars for biofuel production.

During this time, Dr. Resch was also involved in investigating biological lignin depolymerization with the ultimate goal of converting lignin into value-added fuels or chemicals. Lignin is an underutilized biomass component that has historically been used for heat and power in industrial settings. To enable this technology, Dr. Resch worked on biophysically characterizing metabolic enzymes involved with the upgrading of lignin and sugar-derived intermediates into fuels and chemicals.

In 2014, Dr. Resch became the personnel manager of the Bioprocess Research Group in NREL's National Bioenergy Center. The researchers in this diverse group are involved with microbial development of photobiological and fermentation applications along with analytical chemistry expertise.

From October 2016 to September 2017, Dr. Resch was on assignment on a Materials & Operations Detail at BETO in Washington, D.C., supporting the Advanced Algal Systems and Conversion Platforms. Dr. Resch provided technical expertise to ensure the integration of strong research, technology, and industrial perspectives in the planning and oversight of BETO's research and development (R&D) efforts. Dr. Resch assisted in the planning and implementation of technical priorities as well as analysis to support the BETO formulation of program goals and metrics.

Currently, Dr. Resch co-leads the Feedstock-Conversion Interface Consortium (FCIC). He is the NREL-PI for Industry Engagement and Project Management, co-leads the FCIC R&D and outreach activities, and serves as a liaison between the FCIC National Labs and BETO. The FCIC is an integrated and collaborative network of eight national laboratories (NREL, Idaho National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Los Aalamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and Argonne National Laboratory) dedicated to fundamental understanding and addressing of technical risks in developing and scaling up biomass collection, storage, handling, preprocessing, and conversion technologies with the goal of enabling the overall operational reliability improvement of integrated pioneer biorefineries. 

Dr. Resch is also leading the technology-to-market efforts in a DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-e) Renewable Energy to Fuels through Utilization of Energy-Dense Liquids (REFUEL)-funded project with the University of Minnesota aimed at producing ammonia. The outcome of this project will be to make ammonia synthesis more sustainable and economical; the concept improves the traditional Haber–Bosch process for synthesizing ammonia. The process uses carbon-free, inexpensive wind-generated electricity to supply hydrogen and a conventional Haber–Bosch catalyst plus an absorbent to operate at a much lower pressure (tenfold reduction in pressure) without affecting the ammonia production rate. Such an ammonia synthesis is ideally suitable for distributed, small-scale ammonia production using locally available wind energy and is well-suited to integration with renewable sources of hydrogen. The ammonia can be used as a hydrogen carrier for use in hydrogen-based fuel cells, allowing for the storage of wind energy, or as a locally produced fertilizer.

Diagram with photos of a wind turbine, water electrolysis equipment, ammonia pilot plant, and ammonia fertilizer tank showing the team roles for the REFUEL project to synthesize ammonia. The University of Minnesota will supply the wind-to-ammonia pilot plant facilities while NREL and Proton OnSite will perform the techno-economic analysis.

NREL, the University of Minnesota, and Proton OnSite are developing a small-scale ammonia synthesis system using water and air, powered by wind energy. Instead of developing a new catalyst, this team aims to increase process efficiency by absorbing ammonia at modest pressures as soon as it is formed.

In addition, Dr. Resch leads a BETO-funded biopower project in collaboration with 3M and Dioxide Materials to develop innovations in the use of industrial carbon dioxide sources to improve the carbon efficiency, decrease greenhouse gas emissions and improve economic potential of biopower production and use in the United States. This project aims to develop an alternative novel scrubbing strategy combining electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide into syngas (carbon monoxide and hydrogen) integrated with biological upgrading into fuels and chemicals to improve the energetic cost of carbon capture. Collectively, NREL is expanding gas fermentation capabilities at small to pilot scales to expand lab core capabilities of utilizing waste gaseous streams. The project will also lead to comprehensive techno-economic and life cycle analyses, enabling identification of key cost drivers and sustainability factors, which will serve to identify technology gaps and iteratively inform the process optimization and deployment approach.

Flow diagram that uses photos of biomass, a catalytic cracking unit, carbon dioxide electrolyzer, gas fermenter, electrical power lines, and solar panels to show the process design of how to improve the carbon efficiency and economics of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage.

Schematic overview of the process design to improve the carbon efficiency and economics of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. Flue gas from a biopower electricity generation facility will be scrubbed of items toxic to the electrolyzer catalysts, then captured or delivered directly to the carbon dioxide electrolyzer for reduction into syngas (carbon monoxide and hydrogen), which will be supplied to the gas fermenter to upgrade into fuels and chemicals. Carbon dioxide from fermentation could be cleaned of byproducts, such as hydrogen sulfide, and returned to the electrolyzer for recycling into syngas. Electrolyzers will be run off inexpensive low carbon intensity electricity when grid demand is low.

Affiliated Research Programs

Featured Publications

  1. Rewiring the Carbon Economy: Engineered Carbon Reduction Listening Day Summary Report, EERE Technical Report (2018)

  2. Algae Cultivation for Carbon Capture and Utilization Workshop Summary Report, EERE Technical Report (2017)

  3. "Reductive Catalytic Fractionation of Corn Stover Lignin," ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering (2016)

  4. "Interrelationships Between Cellulase Activity and Cellulose Particle Morphology," Cellulose (2016)

  5. "Dramatic Performance of Clostridium thermocellum Explained by its Wide Range of Cellulase Modalities," Science Advances (2016)

  6. "Lignin Depolymerization by Fungal Secretomes and a Microbial Sink," Green Chemistry (2016)

  7. "Editorial Overview: Energy: Prospects for Fuels and Chemicals from a Biomass-Based Biorefinery using Post-Genomic Chemical Biology Tools," Current Opinion in Chemical Biology (2015)

  8. "Mechanisms Employed by Cellulase Systems to Gain Access Through the Complex Architecture of Lignocellulosic Substrates," Current Opinion in Chemical Biology (2015)

  9. "Alkaline Pretreatment of Switchgrass," ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering (2015)

  10. "Molecular-Scale Features that Govern the Effects of O-Glycosylation on a Carbohydrate Binding Module," ACS Chemical Science (2015)

  11. "O-Glycosylation Effects on Family 1 Carbohydrate-Binding Module Solution Structures," FEBS J. (2015)

  12. Low Solids Enzymatic Saccharification of Lignocellulosic Biomass, NREL Laboratory Analytical Procedure (2015)

  13. "Predicting enzyme adsorption to lignin films by calculating enzyme surface hydrophobicity," Journal of Biological Chemistry (2014)

  14. "Clean fractionation pretreatment reduces enzyme loadings for biomass saccharification and reveals the mechanism of free and cellulosomal enzyme synergy," ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering (2014)

  15. "Specificity of O-Glycosylation in Enhancing the Stability and Cellulose Binding Affinity of Family 1 Carbohydrate-Binding Modules," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA (2014)

  16. "Engineering plant cell walls: tuning lignin monomer composition for deconstructable biofuel feedstocks or resilient biomaterials," Green Chemistry (2014)

  17. "Revealing Nature's Cellulase Diversity: The Hyperactive CelA from Caldicellulosiriptor Bescii," Science (2014)

  18. "Glycosylated linkers in multi-modular lignocellulose degrading enzymes dynamically bind to cellulose," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA (2013)

  19. "Fungal cellulases and complexed cellulosomal enzymes exhibit synergistic mechanisms in cellulose deconstruction," Energy Env. Sci. (2013)

View all NREL Publications for Michael Resch.