Imagine being able to grow nearly everything required by society, from energy, to plastics, adhesives, and advanced biomedical materials. This is the vision that drives the research and discoveries of UBCs BioProducts Institute (BPI).
As climate change accelerates and recognition of the harm caused by plastic production and waste increases, new technologies that utilize renewable carbon as a primary source for energy, chemicals and materials present opportunities to address these challenges in groundbreaking ways. At the BPI, researchers are using state-of-the-art genomics and biotechnology to unlock the potential of materials produced in nature, extracting high-value products from agricultural and forest biomassan abundant material sourced primarily from residual and waste products from agro-based and forest industries.
For example, forest-, plant- and marine-sourced nanostructures are being exploited for assembly into advanced functional materials. The products being developed are wide ranging and include the next generation of nutraceuticals and food products, advanced health materials, solutions for environmental remediation, systems for energy harvesting and storage that are portable and low-cost, organic nanoelectronics, and nanophotonics for security papers and diagnostics.
The sustainable utilization of biomass requires interdisciplinary strategies an approach that is being embraced at UBCs BioProducts Institute where a team of over 50 leading researchers come from a broad range of disciplines, including plant genetics, biocatalysis, advanced materials engineering and social science. This multi-disciplinary network distinguishes itself through its commitment to knowledge transfer with researchers, industry, government and end-users to maximize the opportunities for impact. This high level of internal and external collaboration results in researchers and practitioners combining knowledge throughout a fully integrated seeds to solution bio-refining value chain, with UBC research embedded at every stage of this process. External partners have included FPInnovations, Mitacs and major BC Pulp and Paper companies.
UBCs continued commitment to leading the way in the bio-economy revolution is evident in the recruitment in 2019 of Dr. Emily D. Cranston as a UBC Presidents Excellence Chair in Forest Bio-Products. Dr. Cranston aims to better understand and develop valuable applications for nanocellulose, a sustainable material derived from wood pulp. The BPIs work is also bolstered by the appointment of Dr. Orlando Rojas as Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Forest Bioproducts. Arriving from Aalto University in Finland, where he has led a national cluster to advance the Finnish materials bio-economy, Dr. Rojas will lead the BPI, where he will continue his cross-disciplinary approach to understanding the fundamental principles involved in the design, manufacture and performance of biobased systems.
With its vast forest and agricultural resources, Canada is uniquely positioned to be a global leader in a bioeconomy fueled by technologies developed by UBCs BPI.