At Poet Dr. McDonald has used his expertise in polymer chemistry to develop processes to deconstruct biomass based cellulose and hemicellulose. Alkaline, steam explosion, hot compressed water, and dilute acid have all been evaluated for biomass pretreatment. Recent work has focused on equipment solutions to cellulosic ethanol pretreatment and the related collaborations with the equipment suppliers.
The dilute acid process was further developed into a process for cellulosic ethanol at Poet. Along with pretreatment, Dr. McDonald has been responsible for enzyme development efforts and initial efforts in fermentation stream cleanup. Relationships have been developed with the major enzyme companies for cellulosic ethanol enzymes. These enzyme companies work closely with Poet to further the development of an economical cellulosic ethanol process.
Dr. McDonald is also responsible for collaborations related to new organisms for ethanol fermentations. These collaborations include both industrial and university partners. There are several objectives including improved overall organism robustness and ability to convert multiple feedstocks into ethanol and other biochemicals.
The tracking of competing biomass to ethanol technologies has also been an important part of Dr. McDonald’s work at Poet. A crude data base of the technologies and companies was developed along with tracking developments in the open and patent literature. The information on competing technologies was used to provide direction to Poet’s biomass project and to determine how that information affected Poet’s freedom to operate in the specific technology area.
Provisional Patent Applications (PPA) were developed and filed on Poet’s various processes surrounding the biomass to ethanol process. The PPAs covered pretreatment, saccharification, fermentation, distillation and lignin removal. At this time, there are approximately 20 PPAs filed and another 10 being drafted for eventual filing.
- POET Research Inc.Senior Scientist | 2011 - current
- Poet Research - Science and TechnologyLead Biomass Science | 2011 - current
- POET LLCLead Biomass Science | 2007 - current
- AgriPolymerixDirector of Research | 2006 - 2007
- Michigan Biotechnology Institute (MBI)Senior Scientist | 1999 - 2006
- North Dakota State University - Chemistry (Polymers and Coatings)Ph.D. | 1987 - 1991
- North Dakota State University - Polymers and Coatings ChemistryDoctorate | 1984 - 1991
- North Dakota State University - Polymer and Coatings ChemistryMS | 1984 - 1987
- Bemidji State University - ChemistryBS | 1980 - 1984