Friday, November 13, 2015

White Biotechnology

White biotechnology, or industrial biotechnology as it is also known, refers to the use of living cells and/or their enzymes to create industrial products that are more easily degradable, require less energy, create less waste during production and sometimes perform better than products created using traditionalchemical processes.
Not to be confused with red biotech (health-related applications of biological technology), blue (marine) biotech or green (agricultural) biotech, white biotechnology is widely regarded as representing the next evolutionary step towards a sustainable and environmentally-friendly chemical manufacturing industry, which itself creates the building blocks that comprise every man-made object and applications range from biofuels to pharmaceuticals, food nutrients, chemicals and other materials.

White biotechnology is not new. Indeed, biotechnology has been used in industrial applications for the creation of food nutrient, washing powders and other products for many years. However recent scientific advances in the fields of genomics, molecular genetics, metabolic engineering and catalysis, coupled with advances in enzyme and fermentation technology as well as external factors such as soaring energy prices, renewed environmental concerns and energy security fears, have combined to make white biotechnology more important than ever. Human knowledge of white biotech has evolved to the point where today, products derived from white biotechnology often display better performance, higher sustainability and more commercially-viable characteristics to products created from traditional chemical procedures.

White Biotechnology today
White biotechnology works by marshalling living cells into micro-factories that, by using biomass as a feedstock rather than traditional petrochemicals, create a variety of materials with energy efficiency, increased productivity and better safety and environmental characteristics than could have been otherwise achieved by traditional means. To give an example of the benefits of white biotechnology over traditional production means, the introduction of white biotech-based advanced fermentation technology at one of its antibiotics plants in Delft, the Netherlands, enabled the firm to replace a complex 13-step chemical process with a one-step fermentation, two-step enzyme process, with the result of energy savings of 65% and a halving of raw material costs.

2nd generation: The Future of White biotechnology
White biotechnology is already delivering considerable savings, both financially and environmentally, by reducing or eliminating our reliance on scarce resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from production. However, application of white biotechnology on an industrial scale nowadays relies on scarce resources: sugar and starch. With reliance traded from one set of commodities to another, the resulting scenario is one where unsustainable demand from industry for sugar and starch would have catastrophic knock-on effects on food and other crop prices.
Today, as an outcome of wide ranging research by industry, governments and research institutes, progress is beginning to be made in the formulation of next generation technology which enables the recovery of sugar from biowaste rather than food crops or the production of high yield crops such as switchgrass from non-agricultural land. This technology goes a long way to ensuring that demand for biofuel will be able to be met – with the correct regulatory and governmental assistance – without any meaningful impact being made on food prices or food production.

No comments: