$6m NSF-sponsored consortium to focus on renewable chemicals

A National Science Foundation initiative aiming to address strategic national security priorities will place a heavy focus on the production of renewable chemicals; a key issue being addressed by the cosmetics industry.

Fossil fuel sources currently provide the basis for the majority of chemicals used in personal care products yet decreasing supplies and environmental considerations mean there is a growing requirement for renewable and sustainable sources for raw materials.

The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has announced it will participate in a three-year, $6 million NSF-sponsored consortium, which aims to create new jobs and reduce the United States' dependence on imported oil by developing sustainable resources based on biomass processing.


The Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) grant will bring together innovators from North and South Dakota in the Dakota Bioprocessing Consortium (DakotaBioCon).

Specifically, the consortium will facilitate the development of novel bioprocessing technologies for the sustainable production of high-value chemicals and materials from renewable resources.

According to the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, special attention will be placed on products derived from crops as economically viable alternatives to imported petroleum-based chemicals.

Lignin processing

Dr Lew Christopher will spearhead the research institute’s efforts under the broader research umbrella of lignin bioprocessing, with the university participating in microbial and enzymatic biodegradation and high-temperature hydrotreatment of lignin.

Lignin is a complex chemical compound most commonly derived from wood, and an integral part of the secondary cell walls of plants and some algae.

North Dakota State University, the University of North Dakota and South Dakota State University are the other DakotaBioCon institutions involved.

DakotaBioCon aims to enhance collaborative research, build academic infrastructure to increase competitiveness for federal support in this growing research area and enable the adoption and commercialization of the best technologies.

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