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Bioengineering for Pollution Prevention Through Development of Biobased Materials and Energy
EPA has published a state-of-the-science report that examines scientists' understanding of plant-based alternatives to petroleum for materials and energy. Entitled, "Bioengineering for Pollution Prevention Through Development of Biobased Materials and Energy," the report looks at the progress made towards using plants and plant oils for plastics and fuels as well as the challenges for using these alternatives on scales large enough to meet society's needs and still protect the environment.
Petroleum-based fuels and materials are central to economies around the world. As demand for these resources increases, economies based on petroleum need to move to plastics and fuels that are renewable, more available, and environmentally friendly. Scientists and engineers are exploring many options through the field of industrial biotechnology, and results of some of their research are reviewed in this report. With recommendations for further study, the report encourages scientific discussion and identifies potential opportunities for interdisciplinary research.
More specifically, the report reviews the science in biotechnological platforms including genetic engineering, bioreactor technologies, and bioseparations and bioprocessing; biomaterials including polylactides, polyhydroxyalkanoates, and starches, proteins, plant oils and cellulosics; and, biofuels including bioethanol, biodiesel, biohydrogen and the biodesulfurization of fossil fuels. Additionally, the report summarizes the contributions to these areas from the Technology for a Sustainable Environment (TSE) Program, a joint research grant program of EPA and the National Science Foundation.