This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.
Green Chemistry Challenge Honors Two Biomass Achievements
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized leading researchers and industrial innovators on June 20th for their significant contributions in preventing pollution. The 2005 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards ceremony honored six top achievements in pollution prevention, two of which were directly related to the process of converting biomass to energy or bio-based products. The first biomass-related award went to Professor Robin D. Rogers of the University of Alabama for his development of environmentally preferable solvents that dissolve cellulose, the "woody" component of many plants, trees, and paper. Dissolving cellulose is a critical first step in most processes to derive fuels and products from woody biomass sources.
The second biomass-related award went to Metabolix, Inc. for its work to commercialize polyhydroxyalkanoates, or PHAs, a family of plastics derived from biomass sources such as cornstarch. Metabolix uses biotechnology to modify microbes so they produce PHAs; the company is then able to extract the PHAs from the microbes through a highly efficient commercial process. Those accomplishments have led Metabolix to form an alliance with Archer Daniels Midland Company; the companies plan to build a commercial plant in the Midwest that will be capable of producing 50,000 tons of PHA per year. See the EPA press release and the awards for Professor Rogers and Metabolix on the EPA Green Chemistry Web site.