Concept: American Texas A&M University researchers have developed a technique involving a ‘plug-in’ preconditioning process that uses agriculture byproducts of corn stubble, grasses, and mesquite to produce sustainable bioplastics. This project received funding from the US Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office.

Nature of Disruption: The plug-in preconditioning processes of lignin, an oxygen-containing organic polymer or PIPOL (plug-in processes of lignin) modifies biofuel refineries. The technology can deliver optimized, sustainable, and cost-effective lignin, which is a key bioplastic component being used in food packaging and other everyday items. The process involves five conventional pretreatment technologies that can produce biofuel and plastics together at a lower cost. The solution designs PIPOL in a way to integrate dissolving, conditioning, and fermenting lignin to generate energy. It also helps in the easy adaption of biorefinery designs. This plug-in preconditioning processes can overcome the challenges faced during Lignocellulosic biorefinery commercialisation including overall low-value output with ethanol as primary products, lack of lignin utilization for fungible products, and limited value-added products from biomass.

Outlook: The biodegradable plastic adoption in emerging economies has increased due to changing public perception strict government regulations to control environmental pollution. It can help manufacturers to diversify feedstocks, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and support sustainability initiative. Texas A&M researchers build a plug-in preconditioning process based on previous research to produce bioplastics. This sustainable method for upgrading the low-value lignin can mitigate environmental impact while contributing to the profitability of biorefineries. The research is considered to be industrially relevant that can help enable the biorefinery and polymer industries to improve better efficiency and economic opportunities.

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