What is the Future of Biobased Chemicals?

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 2:00pm
Event Type: 

1420 Mol Biol Building

Brent Shanks, Mike and Jean Steffenson Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Abstract: Increasingly, companies that are selling directly to consumers are touting products made at least partially from biobased chemicals. However, consumers have repeatedly demonstrated very little willingness to pay any extra for products with biobased content. The current petrochemical production is highly efficient and the feedstock costs are being driven down by the expanding production of shale gas. Against this backdrop, is there a path forward for the introduction of biobased chemicals? To date, biobased chemical development has generally been premised on targeting a single biobased chemical at a time. Unfortunately, this serial approach to biobased chemical products is both time intensive and expensive, which are hardly desirable attributes. Are there alternative technological approaches that could mitigate some of the challenges facing biobased chemical development? It will be proposed there is a need to consider development approaches that can create a more generalized framework in which a range of biobased chemicals could be produced from a common technological platform. One such generalized technological framework, being developed by CBiRC, depends on the exploitation of a common metabolic pathway leading to a diversity of intermediate chemicals that are subsequently converted to chemical products using chemical catalysts. An overview of the technical strategy being used by CBiRC to achieve a generalized chemical production platform will be discussed as well as several specific examples involving varying chain length carboxylic acids with decarboxylation to olefins and biological-produced pyrones with subsequent ring opening or aromatization.