Dr. Simo Sarkanen has more than a quarter century of experience in lignin chemistry and biochemistry to bring to bear on the biomass conversion and refining aspect of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance project.

A professor of bioproducts and biosystems engineering at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Sarkanen’s work embraces the physicochemical properties of macromolecular lignin components, formulations for new polymeric materials with the highest attainable lignin content, the enzymatic basis of the inaugural steps in breaking down lignins, and replicating the primary structure during lignin biosynthesis.

With his co-workers, Dr. Sarkanen has worked to create the first thermoplastics with simple lignin derivatives as the predominant active components; isolate the first enzyme that may qualify as a true lignin depolymerase; develop the first comprehensive working hypotheses for a mechanism through which lignin macromolecules could replicate as they are biosynthesized.

Dr. Sarkanen earned his Ph.D. in bio-organic chemistry from the University of Washington in 1976.