Research Interests

Kim Magrini is a principal research scientist and group manager in the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL) National Bioenergy Center (NBC). She manages NREL's Catalysis and Thermochemical Sciences Group, which focuses on the development of catalytic approaches to biofuels production from syngas and pyrolysis. She has 25 years of research and management experience in academic, industrial, and national laboratory environments and has more than 80 peer-reviewed publications, 1 patent, and 110 presentations at national and international meetings. Her research areas include catalyst development for syngas conditioning, hydrogen production, thermochemical fuels and chemicals production from pyrolysis liquids and vapors, power production, and rapid comprehensive characterization of soils and chars using pyrolysis molecular beam mass spectrometry. She is currently leading a team to produce hydrocarbon fuels via catalytic upgrading of biomass pyrolysis vapors using a Davison Circulating Riser (DCR) reactor system. When not at NREL she can be found flying her Piper Turbo Arrow around Colorado.

  • Developing and validating catalysts for biofuels production from pyrolysis and gasification routes

  • Vapor phase upgrading of pyrolysis species to fuels using a DCR system

  • Syngas cleaning for fuels and power production

  • Bio-based product development

  • Hydrogen and hydrocarbon production from biorefinery waste streams

  • Pyrolysis product analysis using two-dimensional spectroscopy

  • Photocatalyst development for environmental applications

  • Materials characterization using surface analyses and scanning microscopy

  • Multivariate statistical analysis applications to analytical characterization

  • Developing char-based soil amendments

  • Soil carbon and char analysis via molecular beam mass spectrometry

Figure of NREL's pyrolyzer/Davison Circulating Riser (DCR) comprised of the biomass pyrolyzer on the left and the three reactors of the DCR unit, which makes hydrocarbon fuels from the biomass pyrolysis vapors. Above the system schematic is a process diagram that shows how biomass feedstock moves through the pyrolyzer to make vapors that are fed into the DCR reactors. Liquid products are collected in a product tank located under the DCR stripper reactor.

Figure 1. Schematic of NREL's pyrolyzer and Davison Circulating Riser (DCR) for upgrading biomass pyrolysis vapors to hydrocarbon fuels and chemical products

Figure of bright red, green, yellow, blue, and dark blue splashes on a bright blue background, with pink, blue, and yellow lines undulating from left to right. The figure shows a chromatogram of the DCR products that are analyzed with a two-dimensional gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer system. The product types are shown in similar colored areas: green and red are paraffins, yellow is 3-ring aromatics, red only is 1-ring aromatics, pink is phenolics, dark blue is 2-ring naphthalenes, and blue represents 2-ring aromatics.

Figure 2. Two-dimensional GCTOFS analysis of DCR-produced hydrocarbon fuels

Areas of Expertise

  • Instrumentation

    • Large-scale heterogeneous catalyst preparation

    • Comprehensive materials characterization (catalysts, metals)

    • Catalyst characterization using microactivity test (MAT) systems

    • Molecular beam mass spectrometry (MBMS)

    • Analytical pyrolysis

  • Surface analysis (scanning electron microscopy/ energy dispersive spectroscopy [SEM/EDS], x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy [XPS] and Auger coupled with depth profiling, Fourier transform infrared [FTIR])

    • Rapid soil carbon analysis using analytical pyrolysis MBMS

    • On-line process gas analysis (gas chromatograpy [GC], MBMS)

    • Biomass and fuels analysis (2D GCxGC time-of-flight mass spectrometer [TOFMS])

    • Coupled analyses (temperature-programmed reaction mass spectroscopy [TPR/MS], thermogravimetric analysis/differential scanning calorimetry/Fourier transform infrared [TGA/DSC/FTIR])

  • Methods/Software

    • Camo Unscrambler-multivariate analysis software

    • MATLAB

    • Honeywell System Control software


  • Ph.D., Physical Chemistry, University of Colorado at Boulder, 1984–1989

  • M.S., Physical Chemistry, Youngstown State University, 19801982

  • B.S., Chemistry/Mathematics, University of Nevada at Reno, 19761980

Professional Experience

  • Principal Scientist and Manager, NREL, Catalysis and Thermochemical Sciences Group, 2011present

  • Principal Scientist, NREL, 20102011

  • Senior Supervisor II, NREL, Thermochemical Sciences Group, 20082010

  • Senior Chemist II, NREL, 20022008

  • Senior Chemist I, NREL, 19952002

  • Staff Chemist, NREL, 19891995

  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Solar Energy Research Institute, 19881989

  • Metallurgy Laboratory Manager, Hunt Steel Corporation, 19821983

  • Chemistry Department Lecturer, Youngstown State University, 19821983

  • Analytical Chemist, Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation, 19811982


  1. "Attrition resistant fluidizable reforming catalyst," U.S. Patent No. 7,915,196 (2011)

Featured Publications

  1. "Catalytic Upgrading of Biomass Pyrolysis Oxygenates with Vacuum Gas Oil Using a Davison Circulating Riser Reactor," Energy & Fuels (2018)

  2. "Characterization and Catalytic Upgrading of Aqueous Stream Carbon from Catalytic Fast Pyrolysis of Biomass," ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. (2017)

  3. "Integrated Biorefining: Coproduction of Renewable Resol Biopolymer for Aqueous Stream Valorization," ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. (2017)

  4. "Reforming Biomass Derived Pyrolysis Bio-oil Aqueous Phase to Fuels," Energy & Fuels (2017)

  5. "Application of DRIFTS, 13C NMR, and py-MBMS to Characterize the Effects of Soil Science Oxidation Assays on Soil Organic Matter Composition in a Mollic Xerofluvent," Applied Spectroscopy (2017)

  6. "Chapter 6: Biomass Conversion," in Handbook of Industrial Chemistry and Biotechnology (2017)

  7. "Progressing towards more quantitative analytical pyrolysis of soil organic matter using molecular beam mass spectroscopy of whole soils and added standards," Geoderma (2016)

  8. "Biomass Catalytic Pyrolysis on Ni/ZSM-5: Effects of Nickel Pretreatment and Loading," Energy & Fuels (2016)

  9. "Effect of ZSM-5 acidity on aromatic product selectivity during upgrading of pine pyrolysis vapors," Catalysis Today (2016)

  10. "Chapter 5: Catalysis's Role in Bioproducts Update," in Commercializing Biobased Products: Opportunities, Challenges, Benefits, and Risks (2015)

  11. "Pilot Scale Production of Mixed Alcohols from Wood," Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research (2014)

  12. "A Perspective on Oxygenated Species in the Refinery Integration of Pyrolysis Oil," Green Chemistry (2014)

  13. "Techno-Economic Analysis for the Production of Mixed Alcohols via Indirect Gasification of Biomass Based on Demonstration Experiments," Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research (2014)

  14. "Chapter 21.4: Application of Solar-Photocatalytic Oxidation to VOC-Containing Airstreams," in Handbook of Solvents. Volume 2. Use, Health and Environment (2014)

  15. "Litter Chemistry Changes More Rapidly When Decomposed at Home But Converges During Decomposition-Transformation," Soil Biology and Biochemistry (2013)

  16. "Catalytic Syngas Purification from Model Biomass Gasification Streams," Catalysis Today (2013)

  17. "Nickel Cerium Olivine Catalyst for Catalytic Gasification of Biomass," Applied Catalysis B: Environmental (2013)

  18. "Diffuse-Reflectance Fourier-Transform Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy as a Method of Characterizing Changes in Soil Organic Matter," Soil Science Society of America Journal (2013)

  19. "Current Research on Thermochemical Conversion of Biomass at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory," Applied Catalysis B: Environmental (2012)

  20. "Integrated Process Configuration for High-Temperature Sulfur Mitigation during Biomass Conversion via Indirect Gasification," Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research (2012)

  21. "Bench- and Pilot-Scale Studies of Reaction and Regeneration of Ni–Mg–K/Al2O3 for Catalytic Conditioning of Biomass-Derived Syngas," Topics in Catalysis (2012)

  22. "Transformation of Sulfur Species During Steam/Air Regeneration on a Ni Biomass Conditioning Catalyst," ACS Catalysis 2 (2012)

  23. "The Role of Soil Characteristics on Temperature Sensitivity of Soil Organic Matter," Soil Science Society of America Journal (2011)

  24. "Regenerable Manganese-Based Sorbent for Cleanup of Simulated Biomass-Derived Syngas," Energy & Fuels (2011)

  25. "Catalysts and Sorbents for Thermochemical Conversion of Biomass to Renewable Biofuels—Material Development Needs," Materials Challenges in Alternative and Renewable Energy (2010)

  26. "Demonstration and Characterization of a Ni/K/Mg/AD90 Used for Pilot-Scale Conditioning of Biomass-Derived Syngas," Topics in Catalysis (2010)

  27. "Biomass Derived, Carbon Sequestering, Designed Fertilizer," Annals of Environmental Science (2009)

  28. "Pyrolysis-Molecular Beam Mass Spectrometry to Characterize Soil Organic Matter Composition in Chemically Isolated Fractions from Differing Land Uses," Biogeochemistry (2009)

  29. "Review of Catalytic Conditioning of Biomass-Derived Syngas," Energy & Fuels (2009)

  30. "Review of Mid- to High-Temperature Sulfur Sorbents for Desulfurizing Biomass- and Coal-Derived Syngas," Energy & Fuels (2009)

  31. "Using Pyrolysis Molecular Beam Mass Spectrometry to Characterize Soil Organic Carbon in Native Prairie Soils," Soil Science (2007)

  32. "Fluidizable Reforming Catalyst Development for Conditioning Biomass-Derived Syngas," Applied Catalysis (2007)

  33. "Evidence of Carbon Sequestration in the Form of Calcium Carbonate Concretions at 2-m Depth in a Grassland Soil," Soil Science Society of America Journal (2006)

  34. "Catalytic Tar Reforming for Cleanup and Conditioning of Biomass-Derived Syngas," Preprints - American Chemical Society, Division of Petroleum Chemistry (2006)

  35. "Evaluation of Catalyst Deactivation During Catalytic Steam Reforming of Biomass-Derived Syngas," Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research (2005)

  36. "Nongovernmental Valorization of Carbon Dioxide," Science of the Total Environment (2005)

  37. "The Production of Hydrogen by Steam Reforming of Trap Grease—Progress in Catalyst Performance," Energy & Fuels (2004)

  38. "Gas-Phase Destruction of Carbon tetrachloride over Iron with Mild Process Conditions," Oxidation Technologies for Water and Wastewater Treatment (2003)

  39. "Use of Pyrolysis Molecular Beam Mass Spectrometry (py-MBMS) to Characterize Forest Soil Carbon: Method and Preliminary Results," Environmental Pollution (2002)

  40. "Use of Pyrolysis Molecular Beam Mass Spectrometry (py-MBMS) to Characterize Forest Soil Carbon: Preliminary Results from an Old-Growth Forest in Northwestern Pennsylvania," Environmental Pollution (2002)

  41. "A Pilot-Scale Demonstration of an Innovative Treatment for Vapor Emissions," Journal of Air and Waste Management (1999)

  42. "Application of Solar Photocatalytic Oxidation to VOC-Containing Airstreams," ASME Proceedings of the Renewable and Advanced Energy Systems for the 21st Century (1999).

  43. "Photocatalytic and Thermal Catalytic Oxidation of Acetaldehyde on Pt/TiO2," Journal of Catalysis (1998)

View all NREL Publications for Kim Magrini.