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Industrial Biotechnology: Biobased Products, Biofuels, and Synthetic Biology

March 1, 2010
Biobased products cover a wide range of materials.  One new such product is biobased insulation made from mushrooms named Greensulate.

The blog Greenline says that Greensulate,
“…is a bio-base alternative to rigid insulation made from paper, rice hulls, and mushroom fibers.   The product is still undergoing testing but the outlook for this new product is very good.  The insulation takes advantage of the mycellium, the roots of the mushroom plant that have incredible structural and insulation properties.    It requires no power to grow and is flame resistant.   The product also has potential to take the place of packing peanuts, they can be thrown in the garden or used in potted plants after they are no longer needed.”

You can find more information on biobased products and the future of industrial biotechnology on our web site

Cultural synthetic biology—that’s the latest topic for Christina Agapakis on her blog, Oscillator .

Agapakis writes,
“The future potential of synthetic biology is usually discussed in terms of applications in fields like medicine, food science, and the environment. Genetically engineered life forms are being designed to make medicines cheaply, to target tumor cells, to make more nutritious food, or to make agricultural plants that are easier to grow with less of an environmental impact, to clean up pollution or produce sustainable biofuels. What if synthetic biology systems were instead designed for use in culture or entertainment?”

She goes on to talk about acoustic sound gardens, bugs engineered to chew specially designed nuts in rhythm, whistling termites, lilly pad speakers, and popping seed pods.

You can find more information on synthetic biology on our web site

The sources for biomass to be converted to biomass are quite varied.  One example is the poplar tree.  According to the blog, Trees, Climate and People,
“Poplar trees (genus Populus, not to be confused with yellow-poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera) are among the fastest-growing trees in the world, and represent a diverse wide-spread genus of trees.  Poplars are grown in plantations for pulp and paper, and have great potential as feedstock for biofuels production.

Poplars have a lot of advantages as experimental plants, as they grow clonally from cuttings and are easy to hybridize.  The poplar genome has been sequenced, making poplars even more attractive as research subjects and for advanced breeding.

Gary Coleman and his colleagues at the University of Maryland and Bowie State University have just received a $3.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to take advantage of the poplar genome map to try to improve the prospects for poplars as a biofuel feedstock.”

You can find more information on biofuels and biomass sources on our Web site