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Sandia National Labs

About Sandia National Laboratories

Through the Secure and Sustainable Energy Future Mission, Sandia National Laboratories helps to enable an uninterrupted and enduring supply of energy from domestic sources and supports the reliability and resiliency of the associated energy infrastructure. This mission is braced by ongoing lab efforts to drive the development and deployment of energy sources that are safe, efficient, and less dependent on scarce natural resources.

Sandia has been nationally recognized for connecting laboratories with small businesses through the New Mexico Small Business Assistance program, a 15-year-old initiative that provides unique lab capabilities and technical expertise to the private sector.


Sandia's Bioenergy program is focused on two primary feedstock types—lignocellulose and microalgae—that show great promise for displacing fossil fuels.

Lignocellulosic Biomass

Lignocellulosic biomass is one of the most abundant plants on Earth and is a critical feedstock for the production of renewable fuels. Lignocellulose is a mixture of complex sugars and lignin, a non-carbohydrate polymer that provides strength and structure to plant cell walls. By extracting simple fermentable sugars from lignocellulose and producing biofuels, the potential of the most energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable non-food feedstock can be realized.

Sandia's lignocellulosic biomass focus areas include:

  • Advanced technologies that breakdown biomass and liberate sugars that can be converted to biofuels
  • Developing a new tool box to transform intermediaries into fuels
  • Pioneering a new process to convert lignin to renewable fuels and chemicals using ionic liquids Increasing the sugar yields from diverse feedstocks with ionic liquid processing
  • Enzyme engineering to produce thermotolerant and halotolerant enzymes
  • Understanding and developing a wide range of biochemical, chemical and thermochemical approach to depolymerizing lignin to increase its value
  • Lifecycle analysis and techno-economic modeling of biorefineries

Microalgae Biomass

Advanced biofuels derived from microalgae at the commercial scale could meet, depending on productivity, the transportation fuel needs of the entire United States using a relatively small land area as compared to that required by lignocellulosic fuels. Microalgae consume CO2 as a nutrient, can be grown with impaired (e.g., brackish) water sources on land that does not compete with food, and have been calculated to produce much higher fuel yields than other terrestrial biomass feedstocks.

Sandia's microalgae biomass focus areas include:

  • Production and conversion of whole turf algae polycutures that maximize fuels, chemicals and other nutrients
  • Real time diagnostics and monitoring of pathogens and predators to mitigate crop losses from pond crashes
  • Efficient and economical methods to remove water from algal ponds Nutrient recycle


Joint Bioenergy Institute (JBEI)

SNL is a key partner in JBEI, a Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center in Emeryville, California, that is investigating the efficient conversion of lignocellulosic biomass in fuels.

Algae Raceway Testbed

Sandia has established an algae raceway testbed in the Livermore Valley Open Campus—a new collaboration space hosted by Sandia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory—to test new technology and overcome challenges facing algae biofuels.

Applied Biosystems Laboratory

A state of the art laboratory with specialized equipment for biomass conversion, enzyme engineering, synthetic biology, proteomics, transcriptomics, bioinformatics, DNA sequencing, and fermentation.

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