New Development Program to Promote Bio-Based Chemicals Research
Biome Bioplastics, Southampton, UK has begun a major development program to progress successful bio-based chemicals research through to industrial scale production. The extensive GBP 3 million, three-year work program has received significant support from Innovate UK, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), among others. The scale-up work will involve several parallel projects undertaken in partnership with specialist units at the Universities of Warwick, Liverpool and Leeds as well as the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) on Teesside.
The consortium’s aim is to harness industrial biotechnology techniques to produce bio-based chemicals from lignin at a scale suitable for industrial testing. Lignin is an abundant waste product of the pulp and paper industry. The availability of these chemicals would allow natural polymers to truly compete with oil-based polymers on both cost and functionality. The work could also contribute to a sustainable UK chemicals industry, with broader commercial applications including fragrances, coatings and personal care products.
Scientists have been trying to valorize lignin for more than 30 years. Last year, Biome Bioplastics and the University of Warwick’s Centre for Industrial Biotechnology and Biorefining successfully demonstrated that bacterial degradation can be used to produce organic chemicals from lignin that are suitable for bioplastic manufacture. In intensive research, the team proved that soil bacteria can be used to manipulate the breakdown pathway and that the process can be controlled and improved using synthetic biology.
Biome Bioplastics’ extensive development program will build on this proven science by increasing yields and scaling up the technology to demonstrate commercial viability and the potential for industrial volumes of production. Larger trials will be undertaken at CPI and demonstration quantities of chemicals will be converted into novel materials for evaluation among Biome Bioplastics’ existing customers.
In addition to converting lignin feedstocks, Biome Bioplastics will also be leading a one-year feasibility study with the University of Liverpool into the possibility of extracting similar organic chemicals from the cellulose portion of lignocellulose. This work is expected to broaden the possible raw materials that can be used in the manufacture of bioplastics to include waste streams such as agriculture. If successful, this work will be integrated into the ongoing development work towards industrial scale products.
Biome Bioplastics Limited
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