With more people aware that bio-based and sustainable alternatives are growing in the marketplace, one of the biggest obstacles the industry still faces are the high production costs. As a result, bio-based products and processes still serve a very niche sector of the overall market; sustainabiltiy is not an option for everyone. The high research and development costs are some of the main issues which has been holding back the industry, until now. In the UK, A University of Manchester PhD student, Ben Dolman has made an impressive breakthrough which separates biochemicals as they are produced by fermentation. His technology could enable multinational corporations to reduce the cost of replacing petroleum based surfactants, fuels and other chemicals with environmentally friendly biosurfactants and biologically produced fuels and chemicals. It could also be applied to other insoluble biochemicals produced for use as fuels, as industrial chemicals and in personal care.
Ben Dolman studies biochemical engineering at The University of Manchester under the supervision of Dr James Winterburn, and his technology, which separates biochemicals as they are produced by fermentation, has so far been demonstrated with sophorolipid biosurfactants. Dolman commented that, “By facilitating around double the production of sophorolipids per batch, as well as reducing energy and separation costs, this technology has the potential to dramatically reduce production costs and so expand the use of these environmentally friendly chemicals.” The 26-year-old has been working closely with The University of Manchester’s agent for intellectual property commercialisation UMIP over the past twelve months, and says he always knew his idea had commercial potential.
The expanding market for biochemical and sophorolipids in particular means that this separation technology provides a promising opportunity to reduce costs and expand into the bulk chemicals sector. Dolman maintains that the simple design combined with the “easy” separating process means that the technology can be quickly implemented with minimal costs involved.
“Now that we have demonstrated the capacity of this technology to recover sophorolipids, having filed a patent and published a paper on the work, we are looking to expand the scope of this project,” he said. “This technology should be applicable to most insoluble or partially soluble bioproducts, and we have planned to develop this aspect in the coming months as well as scale up the separator and develop automated control systems.”
The PhD student is looking for companies to get in touch if they are looking to reduce their production costs and gain an early competitive advantage.
This is just one of many recent breakthrough technologies beginning at universities. Last month, Bio-Based World News reported that bioengineers at The University of Nottingham had been trailling how to turn shrimp shells into biodegradeable shopping bags. If you know of any other new bio-based technologies that your institution has been working on then send your stories into email@example.com
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