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Darren Peterson

Project Manager III-Research


Darren J. Peterson is the point of contact for the analytical lab in NREL's Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility (IBRF). He is responsible for all maintenance for equipment, including high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), within the laboratory. This responsibility also requires supporting other staff with their analytical needs.

He is currently developing analytical methods to quantify the composition of various waste streams, such as brown grease. Waste streams pose a challenge because of the high variability. Darren is also developing methods to quantify carbohydrate utilization that undergo anaerobic digestion.

Darren collaborates with many of the NREL engineers working in the IBRF pilot plant. His communication with engineers performing dilute acid pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, fermentation, and alkaline pretreatment of feedstocks allows him to optimize the analytical results for specific experiments. His knowledge of the pilot plant operations allows him to guide other analysts within the Biomass Analysis Team (BAT) on how best to handle samples, prepare samples for analytical procedures, and quantify carbohydrates, organic acids, and potential fermentation products.

He also collaborates with the IBRF’s bench-scale fermentation biologists. The biologists are typically screening microorganisms for maximum carbohydrate or lignin utilization to increase fermentation titers. The analytical for various microorganisms requires quick method development for sample preparation and analyses. He specializes in HPLC and high-performance anion-exchange chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection and collaborates with biologists as to what carbohydrates or ligno-aromatics are expected to be present, which nutrients are expected to be utilized, intermediates within the fermentation process, and which products to expect. Because of his extensive experience with fermentation samples, he is also familiar with identifying contamination. Early detection of contamination saves biologists time and therefore is necessary when unexpected products are produced. He is very familiar with the analyses of ethanologens such as zymomonas and has experience in analyzing anaerobic digestion fermentations, including but not limited to, Clostridium butyricum and Clostridium tyrobutyricum for butyric acid, and Pseudomons putida for lignin utilization for muconic acid production.

Darren started as an intern at NREL in 2004. His first project was assisting the development of a metal oxide sensor array for the detection of volatile organic compounds for indoor air quality. In 2007, he was brought into BAT. He has extensive knowledge and is a valuable resource for many of NREL’s laboratory analytical procedures pertaining to biomass composition. He is continuously providing support for improving methods and making them less labor intensive. He has contributed to the BAT’s high-throughput feedstock compositional analysis procedure.


B.S., Chemistry with Honors, Regis University

Professional Experience

Research Technician, NREL (2006–present)

Intern, NREL (2004–2005)

Featured Work

In Situ Recovery of Bio-Based Carboxylic Acids, Green Chemistry (2018)

Revisiting Alkaline Aerobic Lignin Oxidation, Green Chemistry (2018)

Enhancing Muconic Acid Production From Glucose and Lignin-Derived Aromatic Compounds via Increased Protocatechuate Decarboxylase Activity, Metabolic Engineering Communications (2016)

A Laboratory-Scale Pretreatment and Hydrolysis Assay for Determination of Reactivity in Cellulosic Biomass Feedstocks, Biotechnology for Biofuels and Bioproducts (2013)