The Bioenergy Technologies Office supports four post-doctoral researchers at various national labs. They are an important part of the Office's portfolio of applied research and development activities happening all across the nation, and our post-docs reflect our strong commitment to strengthen the bioenergy industry and create green jobs. This week we're profiling the Bioenergy Technologies Office post-docs, so be sure to check back to meet them and learn more about their research. Yesterday, we highlighted David Lampert; today, we have Padmaja Gunda.

Head shot of Padmaja Gunda



Name: Padmaja Gunda

Affiliation: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 

Area of Study: Catalysis, Organic, Organometallic and Analytical Chemistry




Bioenergy Technologies Office Blog (BETO-B): Tell us about your research.

Padmaja Gunda: Biobased fuels are needed to attain energy security in a sustainable way, which reduces dependence on foreign petroleum resources and minimizes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the transportation sector. The main goal of this project is to apply PNP-ligated Cr (III) catalysts to the oligomerization of bio-derived dienes (1,3-butadiene and isoprene) to produce C10-C20 hydrocarbons for use as jet and diesel fuel blendstocks. Ligand structure plays a key role in controlling selectivity toward oligomerization products. I have committed substantial effort in understanding and developing symmetric and asymmetric PNP ligands and Cr-catalyzed diene oligomerization. I am working to demonstrate that homogeneous catalysts could be expediently converted to heterogeneous analogs, and I will be testing diene oligomerization by catalysts supported on a mesoporous support (SBA-15). This will be the first study pertaining to a conversion of dienes to jet-range and diesel-range hydrocarbons on the mesoporous support, which would be industrially viable.

BETO-B: How did you get started in the field of renewable energy? What initially interested you in biomass research, specifically? 

PG: I was always interested to pursue my research in an area that has direct applications, including renewable energy. After my brief postdoctoral stay at Kansas, I started to explore research opportunities in the area of renewable energy. During that time, I came to know about EERE (the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy) postdoctoral awards. I took this as an opportunity and approached biomass researcher Mike Lilga at PNNL to discuss the development of catalytic systems for the production of biofuels from biomass in a sustainable way that may have a significant impact on the biomass research community.

Specifically, biofuels reduce our carbon footprint—especially by lowering GHG emissions and reducing air pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). My graduate work was on PAH derivatives, and I know how harmful they can be. Since then, I wanted to lower their emission, and this could be one of the best ways.

BETO-B: What are the next steps for your research moving forward? What would you like to achieve in the near term? 

PG: So far, I have developed various ligand systems and homogeneous catalysts that offer improved performance and excellent selectivity in diene oligomerization. The next steps are very crucial for the overall success of our approach. Preparing heterogeneous analogs of the candidate homogeneous catalyst is my immediate next step. We plan to investigate the influence of the surface on conversion and selectivity of diene oligomerization. The ultimate goal is to build a packed bed flow reactor and do the comprehensive heterogeneous catalyst testing.

In the near term, I would like to secure a scientist position in a national laboratory because my stay at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has been very productive, and I am really enjoying working in collaborative environment. One of the greatest advantages of being at PNNL is the state-of-the-art instrumentation resources available.

BETO-B: What impact do you think your research could have? What do you hope it will achieve? 

PG: It would surely open up new pathways for advanced biofuels by converting biochemically derived dienes to jet-range and diesel-range hydrocarbons. This new pathway could help the U.S. Department of Energy and the nation to meet EISA goals, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and reduce GHG emissions and air pollutants.

BETO-B: What do you see as your ‘endgame’ or ultimate long-term goal?

PG: My ultimate goal would be to develop a technology that goes into commercial production.

BETO-B: In your opinion, what event in the last decade has contributed the most to widespread adoption of renewable energy, particularly biofuels? What do you see as the main reasons to continue to expand the bioenergy industry?

PG: Contributors to the adoption of renewable energy are as follows:

    (1) Increasing fuel prices
    (2) Diminishing petroleum reserve
    (3) Increasing GHG emissions and air pollutants.

Expanding the bioenergy industry helps reduce our reliance on limited and foreign petroleum resources, minimizes our carbon footprint, maintains America’s technological competitiveness, and creates green jobs.

BETO-B: What do you see as the next great development in bioenergy?

PG: The next great development in bioenergy would be bio-templated material synthesis for energy-storage applications.

BETO-B: Tell us a few fun facts about yourself, aside from your studies. 

PG: Summer is my favorite time, and I try to spend time outside picking fruits, having riverside lunches, and camping. I enjoy playing chess and having fun with my family in water parks.

Thanks, Padmaja! To learn more about Padmaja's research, check out her publications, below. And don't forget to check back tomorrow to meet another Biomass Post-Doc!

Padmaja Gunda's Publications

Satish K. Nune, Padmaja Gunda, Bharat K. Majeti, Praveen K. Thallapally and Laird M. Forrest. Advances in Lymphatic Imaging and Drug Delivery. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews 2011, 63, 876-885.

Ramendra Pratap, Damon Parrish, Padmaja Gunda, D. Venkataraman, and Mahesh K. Lakshman. “Influence of Biaryl Phosphine Structure on C-N and C-C Bond Formation.” J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2009, 131, 12240-12249.

Satish K. Nune, Padmaja Gunda, M. Forrest Laird, Cory J. Berkland. Nanoparticles for Biomedical Imaging.” Expert Opin. Drug Deliv., 2009, 6, 1175-1194.

Padmaja Gunda. “Biphenyl-Based Phosphine Ligand.” Synlett (Spotlight) 2006, 1621-1622.

Mahesh K. Lakshman, Padmaja Gunda, and Padmanava Pradhan. Mild and Room Temperature C-C Bond Forming Reactions of Nucleoside C-6 Arylsulfonates.” J. Org. Chem. 2005, 70, 10329-10335.

Padmaja Gunda, Larry M. Russon and Mahesh K. Lakshman. “Pd-Catalyzed Amination of Nucleoside Arylsulfonates to Yield N6-Aryl-2,6-Diaminopurine Nucleosides.” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2004, 43, 6372-6377.

Mahesh K. Lakshman, Padmaja Gunda. “Palladium-Catalyzed Synthesis of Carcinogenic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Epoxide-Nucleoside Adducts: The First Amination of a Chloro Nucleoside.” Org. lett., 2003, 5, 39-42.

Abhik Mukhopadhyay, G. Padmaja, Satyanarayan Pal, Samudranil Pal. “Square-planar nickel(II) complexes with a tridentate Schiff base and monodentate heterocycles: self- assembly to dimeric and one-dimensional array via hydrogen bonding.” Inorg. Chem. Commun., 2003, 6, 381-386.