The main objective of the Smith research group is to demonstrate Raman spectroscopy analyses of biomass, enzymatic catalysis, and thin films. This objective is accomplished through a combination of analytical measurements, instrument and method development. Our work supports the use of biomass as a feedstock for renewable fuels and commodity chemicals through rapid, non-invasive characterization of biomass composition and conversion. Using Raman spectroscopy we aim to measure the chemical composition of biomass, cell wall polymers, and their conversion to diverse products through enzymatic and chemical routes. The main questions we seek to address are, for the degradation of lignin, how do enzyme/mediator composition, monomer composition and reactant source affect the rate and products of the enzymatic reactions? We also are studying the role of enzyme immobilization on improving product yield in the simultaneous saccharification and fermentation of cellulose.
Program Mentor: Emily Smith, assistant professor, Chemistry, Iowa State University