The Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC) was founded in 2008 with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) creating a NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) focused on advanced manufacturing for sustainable biobased chemicals. The ERC program creates multi-year, interdisciplinary, multi-institutional centers that join academia, industry and government in partnership to produce transformational engineered systems. The ERCs also develop engineering graduates who are adept at innovation and primed for leadership in the global economy.
Most of the world’s fuels and carbon-based chemicals are sourced from fossil carbon, with a relatively minor contribution (10%) from biorenewable sources. CBiRC’s targeted engineering research aims to identify ways that will help transform the chemical industry by increasing the range of valuable chemicals derived from renewable carbon sources. The Center’s vision is that its innovative research programs will decrease our reliance on fossil carbon sources and build a foundation for a more sustainable future based on biorenewable “bio-based” chemicals.
Today, valuable renewable carbon sources of biomass are processed to release sugars that are used in fermentation processes to produce ethanol.
Tomorrow, these renewable carbon sources of biomass will still be processed to release sugars, but advanced biomanufacturing processes will produce more valuable biorenewable chemicals. To achieve this goal CBiRC is using targeted bio-engineering to redirect metabolism away from ethanol and into an array of novel bio-based chemicals that can be used as precursor chemicals for an array of bio-based products and materials. Combining this novel biocatalysis with novel chemical catalysis will enable a full realization of this vision.