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Creating the technology and resource base for the next generation of bio-based fuels, chemicals and materials.
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Engineered microbe may be key to producing plastic from plants

With a few genetic tweaks, a type of soil bacteria with an appetite for hydrocarbons shows promise as a biological factory for converting a renewable — but frustratingly untapped — bounty into a replacement for ubiquitous plastics.
Bioadhesive based on renewable raw materials

Researchers from Fraunhofer UMSICHT and partners have developed an innovative, plant-based hot-melt pressure-sensitive adhesive.
Engineered microbe may be key to producing plastic from plants (21/03/2019)
With a few genetic tweaks, a type of soil bacteria with an appetite for hydrocarbons shows promise as a biological factory for converting a renewable — but frustratingly untapped — bounty into a replacement for ubiquitous plastics.
Researchers, like those at the University of Wisconsin, Department of Energy-funded Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, hoping to turn woody plants into a replacement for petroleum in the production of fuels and other chemicals have been after the sugars in the fibrous cellulose that makes up much of the plants' cell walls.

Much of the work of procuring those sugars involves stripping away lignin, a polymer that fills the gaps between cellulose and other chemical components in those cell walls.

That leaves a lot of useful cellulose, but also a lot of lignin — which has never carried much value. Paper mills have been stripping lignin from wood to make paper for more than a century, and finding so little value in the lignin that it's simply burned in the mills' boilers.

"They say you can make anything from lignin except money," says Miguel Perez, a UW-Madison graduate student in civil and environmental engineering.

But they may not know Novosphingobium aromaticivorans as well as he does.

Perez, civil and environmental engineering professor Daniel Noguera and colleagues at GLBRC and the Wisconsin Energy Institute have published in the journal, Green Chemistry a strategy for employing N. aromaticivorans to turn lignin into a more valuable commodity.

"Lignin is the most abundant source — other than petroleum — of aromatic compounds on the planet," Noguera says, like those used to manufacture chemicals and plastics from petroleum. But the large and complex lignin molecule is notoriously hard to efficiently break into useful constituent pieces.

Enter the bacterium, which was first isolated while thriving in soil rich in aromatic compounds after contamination by petroleum products.

Where other microbes pick and choose, N. aromaticivorans is a biological funnel for the aromatics in lignin. It is unique in that it can digest nearly all of the different pieces of lignin into smaller aromatic hydrocarbons.

"Other microbes tried before may be able to digest a few types of aromatics found in lignin," Perez says. "When we met this microbe, it was already good at degrading a wide range of compounds. That makes this microbe very promising."

In the course of its digestion process, the microbe turns those aromatic compounds into 2-pyrone-4,6-dicarboxylic acid — more manageably known as PDC. By removing three genes from their microbe, the researchers turned the intermediate PDC into the end of the line. These engineered bacteria became a funnel into which the different lignin pieces go, and out of which PDC flows.

Bioengineers in Japan have used PDC to make a variety of materials that would be useful for consumer products.

"They have found out the compound performs the same or better than the most common petroleum-based additive to PET polymers — like plastic bottles and synthetic fibers — which are the most common polymers being produced in the world," Perez says.

It would be an attractive plastic alternative — one that would break down naturally in the environment, and wouldn't leach hormone-mimicking compounds into water — if only PDC were easier to come by.

"There's no industrial process for doing that, because PDC is so difficult to make by existing routes," says Noguera. "But if we're making biofuels from cellulose and producing lignin — something we used to just burn — and we can efficiently turn the lignin into PDC, that potentially changes the market for industrial use of this compound."

For now, the engineered variation on N. aromaticivorans can turn at least 59 percent of lignin's potentially useful compounds into PDC. But the new study suggests greater potential, and Perez has targets for further manipulation of the microbe.

"If we can make this pipeline produce at a sufficient rate, with a sufficient yield, we might create a new industry," Noguera says.

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has filed a patent application on this technology.


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Bioadhesive based on renewable raw materials (21/03/2019)
Researchers from Fraunhofer UMSICHT and partners have developed an innovative, plant-based hot-melt pressure-sensitive adhesive.
Post-Its, adhesive tape, and labels: They do not lose their adhesive strength, even after being affixed and peeled off multiple times without leaving any residues. This is thanks to the pressure-sensitive adhesives used, which are usually based on fossil raw materials. Together with partners from science and industry, researchers from Fraunhofer UMSICHT have now developed an innovative, plant-based hot-melt pressure-sensitive adhesive.

The demand for products that do not require fossil raw materials has risen sharply in recent years. The "BioPSA" joint project therefore focused on the further development of hot-melt pressure-sensitive adhesives made from renewable raw materials, which can be used, for example, in adhesive tape. The result of the project, in which Westphalian University of Applied Sciences Recklinghausen and its industrial partners Jowat SE, Henkel AG & Co. KGaA and Logo tape Gesellschaft für Selbstklebebänder mbH & Co. KG are involved: A bio-based hot-melt pressure-sensitive adhesive that can also be produced on a large scale.

Bioadhesive on an industrial scale

Pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSAs) are characterized by the fact that they remain permanently tacky at room temperature. A hot-melt pressure-sensitive adhesive is a pressure-sensitive adhesive that is processed from a melt. They are primarily comprised of the three basic components: Primary polymeric ingredient, tackifier, plasticizer, and other additives. Primary polymeric ingredients - also known as base polymers - are responsible for the cohesiveness of the entire formulation and for the adhesion. They give the adhesives their inner strength (cohesion).

The choice of primary polymeric ingredients is very important for producing pressure-sensitive adhesives from renewable raw materials. In view of availability, costs, modification options, sustainability, and compatibility with carrier substrates, poly-L-lactic acid (PLA) was chosen for the "BioPSA" project. This polymer from renewable raw materials is available on a world scale and at comparable prices to fossil-based primary polymeric ingredients. The researchers at Fraunhofer UMSICHT have further developed the properties of a PLA primary polymeric ingredient so that the formulation can be transferred from laboratory scale to industrial practice.

The formulation of the new bioadhesive was developed and optimised at the Recklinghausen site of Westphalian University of Applied Sciences together with the industrial partners Jowat SE and Henkel. The challenge was to use the formulation to achieve adhesive properties similar to those of commercial adhesives.

Patent for new bioadhesive

In close cooperation, the partners of the "BioPSA" project have succeeded in chemically modifying the primary polymeric ingredients so that a PLA-based adhesive can be formulated from it. Two out of 300 formulations have proven to be suitable for the bioadhesive, and have finally been successfully produced and tested by the industrial partners on a small pilot scale.

"We are continuing to improve the formulation and its production so that the PLA adhesives can be used in various areas," says Dr. Inna Bretz from the Department of Bio-Based Plastics at Fraunhofer UMSICHT. As soon as a manufacturer is found who offers the raw materials for the respective formulations, commercial standards for the production of the new bio-adhesive can also be strived for in the future. The researchers have applied for a patent for both the adhesive composition and the base polymer.

The "BioPSA" project was funded as part of the "Renewable Resources" funding program by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), which focuses on "adhesives and binders". The project executing organisation was the Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR).


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Mobilising the European Bioeconomy (01/02/2019)
Over the past couple of years, the European bioeconomy has become a key discussion point for policy makers, scientists and industry alike.
The European Commission defined the bioeconomy as a more low-emissions and innovative economy which goal is to "reconcile demands for sustainable agriculture and fisheries, food security, and the sustainable use of renewable biological resources for industrial purposes, while ensuring biodiversity and environmental protection". Investing solely in the development and commercialisation of new sustainable technologies and products is not enough to achieve such an ambitious goal.

The transition to a sustainable European bioeconomy requires a strong mobilisation in the bio-based industries throughout all segments of the value chain. More partnerships and stakeholders must unite and innovate new ideas to rapidly deploy bio-based economies at global but also at regional level in order to see sustainability through from beginning to end. Integration and cooperation of initiatives, efforts and knowledge between entrepreneurs, brands, local communities, policy makers, scientists, producers and journalists are thus key factors to raise awareness on the potential and benefits of the bioeconomy and make it a European success across sectors. Alliances and projects specifically put in place to serve this collaborative purpose have multiplied over the last decade and will remain important vehicles for change towards the implementation of the recently updated European Bioeconomy Strategy.

Read the full article here

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UK REA launches bioenergy review with new call for evidence (31/01/2019)
The UK Renewable Energy Association (REA) has launched a far-reaching review into the future of bioenergy in the UK. Bioenergy is energy generated from biobased fuels, such as wood pellets and biodiesel.
The review comes shortly after the Committee on Climate Change estimated bioenergy's contribution to UK total energy could more than double by 2050. The International Energy Agency described bioenergy as "the overlooked giant of renewables." The review is expected to form a new policy strategy for government and industry, outlining how bioenergy can fulfil its long-term potential in a low-carbon energy mix. It will provide a comprehensive up-to-date assessment of the current role of bioenergy and the potential it has in meeting carbon targets by the year 2032, when the U.K.'s final carbon budget will draw to a close.

The Strategy will also look at bioenergy's role in meeting the UK's 2050 targets for decarbonization.

The publication of the REA's Bioenergy Strategy will come two years after the long-awaited first review of the Government's 2012 Bioenergy Strategy was expected.

To launch the review, the REA is seeking stakeholder and expert views on the future and potential of bioenergy through their Call for Evidence, hosted at Industry, academic specialists, NGOs and political stakeholders—as well as the wider public—are invited to submit evidence to the review.

Adam Brown, independent author for the Bioenergy Strategy report, commented, "Bioenergy has been at the heart of the move to renewable energy in the UK It currently provides the largest share of renewable energy, both globally and in the UK"

"Many of the policies which have helped spur the growth of bioenergy are now coming to an end and the energy markets and technologies have advanced significantly," he said. "So it's time for an update of the UK's strategy.

We want to explore the role of bioenergy and how public policy and industry practice need to change if we're to get the most out of this sector. We're looking at everything from sustainability and air quality to economic value and its ability to cut energy bills."

"We're very keen to hear from all stakeholders with expertise in bioenergy issues, which is why we've launched with a broad call for evidence," Brown continued.

Nina Skorupska CBE, chief executive of the REA, commented, "Bioenergy is already a major part of British life. It's our largest source of renewable heat, second largest source of renewable power and is a key solution to decarbonising transport today and into the future."

"It's been central to the U.K.'s progress in cutting its carbon emissions."

"For bioenergy to fulfil its potential long into the future, we need a strong evidence base, expert inputs from industry and real political will," Skorupska continued.

"That's why we've launched this review and invited all stakeholders to contribute their expertise."


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Fermentable sugar as a raw material for the chemical industry (29/01/2019)
New study conducts quantitative and qualitative sustainability assessment of bio-based raw materials for the chemical industry
An extensive sustainability study carried out by nova-Institute shows that first-generation fermentable sugar is just as advantageous for a sustainable raw materials strategy of the European chemical industry as second-generation sugar. The results indicate that the poor reputation of first-generation agricultural commodities is in no way scientifically justifiable. It would therefore be counterproductive to restrict the use of sugar plants.

Twelve main criteria were selected to assess the sustainability of first and second generation fermentable sugars. The selection of criteria was based on the latest standards and certification schemes for bio-based fuels and materials, including a wide range of environmental, social and economic aspects. Because of the persistent accusation that the use of first-generation raw materials endangers food security, special attention was given to this particular criterion.

The analysis of the twelve different sustainability criteria shows that all examined raw materials display clear strengths in terms of sustainability, but also certain weaknesses:

All raw materials lead to a considerable reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Although second-generation sugars perform better in this regard, the advantage is clearly put into perspective if it is offset against abatement costs. Reducing GHG emissions with second generation sugars is a comparatively expensive way to mitigate climate change.

Considering the often criticised aspect that the use of first generation raw materials has negative effects on food security, the findings actually point in exactly the opposite direction. Competition for arable land is offset by the excellent land-use efficiency of first-generation agricultural crops (especially sugar beet) and the presence of protein-rich by-products (especially wheat and maize). In this context, the use of short-rotation coppice (SRC) for sugar production represents much greater competition for arable land, since the same sugar yield requires a larger cultivation area and provides no additional protein by-products.

The results clearly show that the systematic discrimination of first-generation sugars in public perception and debate is in no way scientifically justifiable.
On the way to a climate-friendly Europe, bio-based chemicals from all raw materials offer advantages in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and should equally be part of a sustainable future strategy for the European chemical industry.

The report analyses the strengths and weaknesses of all available raw materials for the production of bio-based chemicals, based on criteria such as greenhouse gas balance, greenhouse gas abatement costs, land efficiency, food security, protein by-products, employment, rural development, livelihood of farmers and forest workers, direct and indirect risks of land-use change (LUC / iLUC), logistics, infrastructure, availability, traceability, social impacts, biodiversity as well as air and soil quality. The results for the individual plant groups can be summarised as follows:

Sugar plants
The greatest strength of sugar cane and sugar beet is their extraordinarily high land-use efficiency. No other biomass can produce so much fermentable sugar per hectare. A high reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and, above all, the lowest greenhouse gas abatement costs are further advantages. Infrastructure and logistics are well developed in this area and sugar beet by-products are used as animal feed. The biggest disadvantages are the effects of intensive agriculture on water, air and soil and the diversity of species - albeit limited to a comparatively small area due to the high land-use efficiency.

Starch plants
The main advantage of starch plants lies in their protein-containing by-products, which have a high value as animal feed. The land efficiency is lower than for sugar plants, but higher than for wood. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is lower than for other types of biomass. However, the comparatively lower GHG emission reductions are largely based on the specific life cycle analysis standards set out in the Renewable Energy Directive. Infrastructure and logistics are well developed for starch plants. The main disadvantages, as in the case of sugar plants, are the impact on water, air and soil and on biodiversity resulting from intensive agriculture.

Forest timber and short-rotation plantations
The greatest advantage of using wood as a raw material for the production of fermentable sugar is their low competition with arable land and thus the absence of LUC or iLUC. However, for short-rotation coppice this is only the case if they are not cultivated on arable land. In the case of wood, infrastructure and logistics are well developed; for SRC, this is less the case. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is in the same range as for sugar plants, but the greenhouse gas abatement costs are much higher. The main disadvantages in this area are the extremely low productivity per unit area and the lack of by-products for the feed market.

Waste and residual materials
The main strength of the use of waste and residual materials for the production of fermentable sugar lies in the highest reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of all compared groups - partly again due to the special life cycle assessment standards applied in the Renewable Energy Directive - and in the lowest impact on biodiversity, water, air and soil. The main disadvantages are high greenhouse gas abatement costs, poorly developed infrastructure and logistics, low traceability and, above all, limited availability.

The study is available for free at


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Bio-economy commercialisation the focus as global leaders confirm for World Bio Markets 2019 (15/01/2019)
The best partnerships come from an alliance of diverse perspectives and skillsets. For the bio-based economy to achieve the success that we all believe it can, a new cohesive approach is required to unite the industry and make it more efficient and commercially focused.
"…a fantastic opportunity to meet the leaders of the bio-economy, collaborate in finding new solutions and learn from those on the cutting edge of innovation."

The best partnerships come from an alliance of diverse perspectives and skillsets. For the bio-based economy to achieve the success that we all believe it can, a new cohesive approach is required to unite the industry and make it more efficient and commercially focused. Chemical and material producers, technical experts and consumer facing brands must stop operating in silos, and instead truly engage with each other as they work towards the same goal - commercial successfully sustainable products.

In the past few years, we have seen a growing shift in the global bio-based chemicals market, as brands take action to steer their supply chains away from traditional petro-chemical base, and those who have already made the change enjoy the benefits both in public perception and commercial performance. But much more should and can be done.

In Amsterdam on April 1st-3rd. World Bio Markets 2019, powered by Bio-Based World News, will bring together the whole bio-economy value chain, giving voice and offering connections to chemical producers, engineering experts, trusted advisers and some of the world's largest brands who are making changes to how their products are made.

The event program features thought provoking keynotes from both inside and outside the industry, lively onstage discussions between C-level executives, interactive roundtables, results orientated workshops as well as carefully crafted sessions; with case studies on some of the most innovative and successful verticals, extensive detail on technical processes and the path to commercialisation.

"I'm very much looking forward to the 2019 version of the World Bio Markets, where I share an update of the H&M group's activities on bio-based materials and products. WBM is a great networking space bringing together various actors from the value chain I also envision to make new contacts for future collaborations." Mattias Bodin, Sustainability Business Expert, Materials & Innovation, H&M.

Our re-energised exhibition will feature Bio-Stars - showcasing the most exciting start-ups in our industry, Brand Land - displaying the products of our attending brands and offering the opportunity for a more personal conversation with the people behind them, as well as enough meeting rooms to accommodate well over 500 crucial meetings, and of course stands and showcases from the leading bio-based companies from all over the world.

If that isn't enough, World Bio Markets, now in its 14th year, will also host the next edition of the Bio-Based World News Awards, a site visit organised by Port of Amsterdam, breakfast briefings, 10 hours of networking and two drinks receptions.

"We are all the time looking for inspiration and new opportunities to be a bigger part of the fast growing bio-economy, therefore I am especially looking forward to the World Bio Market 2019 event," - Alexander Rosenlew, CEO, Orthex.

"World Bio Markets 2019 is a fantastic opportunity to meet the leaders of the bio-economy, collaborate in finding new solutions and learn from those on the cutting edge of innovation." Rolf Hogan, Executive Director, Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials.