Corinne Scown, the Joint BioEnergy Institute’s (JBEI) Vice President for Life-Cycle, Economics and Agronomy and Director of Life-Cycle and Technoeconomic Analysis, has won the 2022 ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering Lectureship Award for the Americas. She was honored for “her contributions integrating emerging technology development with rigorous technoeconomic analysis and life-cycle assessment.”
Two new publicly available web-based software tools developed at Berkeley Lab, with funding support from the U.S Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office, aim to help researchers and companies quickly test different scenarios and explore viable bio-based fuels and products without ever stepping foot in the lab.
A multidisciplinary Berkeley Lab team led by the Joint Bioenergy Institute’s Corinne Scown and the Molecular Foundry’s Brett Helms, has been working for several years to develop a game-changing plastic that, unlike traditional plastics, can be recycled indefinitely and is not made from petroleum. Scown and Helms spoke with Berkeley Lab on the inspiration for this plastic, shortfalls in our current recycling systems, and how this ambitious project is enabled by a diverse combination of scientific expertise.
The average person in the U.S. generates about 100 kg of plastic waste per year, most of which goes straight to a landfill. A team led by the Joint BioEnergy Institute’s (JBEI) Corinne Scown and Jay Keasling and the Molecular Foundry’s Brett Helms and Kristin Persson set out to change that. Less than two years ago, Helms announced the invention of poly(diketoenamine), or PDK, a material that has all the convenient properties of traditional plastics while avoiding the environmental pitfalls. Now, collaborating with researchers from JBEI and Biosciences, the team has released a study that shows what can be accomplished if manufacturers began using PDKs on a large scale.
Biofuels are an important part of the broader strategy to replace petroleum-based gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels that we use today. However, biofuels have so far not reached cost parity with conventional petroleum fuels.
One strategy to make biofuels more competitive is to make plants do some of the work themselves. Scientists can engineer plants to produce valuable chemical compounds, or bioproducts, as they grow. Then the bioproducts can be extracted from the plant and the remaining plant material can be converted into fuel. When produced in the plant itself, bioproducts can help reduce the cost of the resulting biofuel.