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Chapter 8 Biomaterials
Chapter 8 "Biomaterials" revisits this textbook’s core issue of the collision of economic growth, population expansion, and resource constraints from the perspective of a subdivision of biotechnology, specifically biomaterials. BiomaterialsMaterial derived from renewable biological sources, typically plants, and used as input into industrial processes. are plant-based materials used to substitute for oil. In certain markets, biomaterials already serve as substitutes for transportation and energy fuels as well as provide product feedstockAny material that is a significant raw material input into an industrial process. Oil is a feedstock for making gasoline; oil is also the primary feedstock for producing resins that are then the feedstock for making plastic products. Biomaterials (plant-based feedstock) hold the promise of becoming the primary feedstock for both fuels and plastics. for common high-volume output such as plastics. For an example of how a city is using biomaterials to move away from fossil fuels for heating and cooling and transportation, see Elisabeth Rosenthal, “With Peels and Pig Innards, a Swedish City Forgoes Coal and Oil,” New York Times, September 11, 2010, accessed January 31, 2011, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700090869/Peels-and-pig-innards-help-Swedish-city-forgo-coal-and-oil.html. This chapter provides students with an example of a biomaterial entrepreneurial venture. It began as a joint venture between two agricultural and chemical giants, Cargill and the Dow Chemical Company. While these large corporations may not be the first entities one associates with entrepreneurial ventures framed by sustainability principles, in this situation they provided an incubation space for an intrapreneurAn individual who starts a new venture from inside an established, larger firm. (the term for an entrepreneur who starts a venture from within a large, established firm). The NatureWorks case offers a detailed account of the barriers to sustainability innnovation and entrepreneurial initiatives inside a large company as well as a view of the significant opportunities that can result from the creativity and determination of a small group of entrepreneurially minded individuals who challenge the status quo.
In our era, a new story of renewable energy and material feedstock from biomaterials (also called biomass referring to their plant material source) has just begun. Many countries are pursuing the path of bio-based feedstock as a cleaner substitute for fossil fuels and a pathway to energy independence. Biogas can power transportation, and biomaterials provide nonpetroleum resin replacement for plastics. Many questions are still to be answered as the technology and supply-chain challenges are tackled. The ventures that can make a dramatic shift in energy priorities toward cleaner biomass fuels undoubtedly will range from distributed microgeneration at the smaller end to large providers with sufficient capital to reach global distribution delivered through economies of scale. In between we will see regional solutions as neighborhoods, towns, and other geographic regions tap into their biomass capabilities. Across various scales it is clear biomaterials are here to stay as an alternative fuel and material source that holds great promise over petroleum for less polluting and more reliably priced outputs.