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Monday, November 22, 2021

Third Wave of Biomaterials

Clear need in our future.   A kind of biomimicry we have known for a long time.  Now at a much lower  level.  an it be constructed in new ways?  Petrochemicals will still be needed.

The third wave of biomaterials: When innovation meets demand 

November 18, 2021 | Article,  in McKinsey

By Tom Brennan, Michael Chui, Wen Chyan, and Axel Spamann

The third wave of biomaterials: When innovation meets demand

How corporate sustainability commitments could catalyze the next generation of bio-based chemicals and materials.

Biomaterials have long been a part of our daily lives, from wooden houses to woolen clothes. More recently, biotech advances have brought us sugar-derived first-generation biofuels and high-performance enzymes to power our laundry detergents. Now, we see the emergence of nylon made using genetically engineered microbes instead of petrochemicals, alternative leather from mushroom roots, and cement from bacteria.

These advances in biological science are bolstered by accelerating innovations in computing, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI), resulting in a new wave of innovation known as the Bio Revolution. McKinsey Global Institute research has found that as much as 60 percent of the physical inputs to the global economy today are either biological (wood or animals bred for food) or nonbiological (cement or plastics) but could in principle be produced or substituted using biological means. Over the next ten to 20 years, advances in the use of biology in the production of materials, chemicals, and energy could amount to $200 billion to $300 billion in global market growth.

What will drive this growth? Historically, adoption of bio-based materials has been the result of a unique technical or cost advantage, the latter of which is difficult to gain against highly developed and large-scale incumbent technologies. But this equation is changing because of accelerating corporate commitments to sustainability and the ability of biomaterials to help companies meet their targets. As biological innovation meets downstream demand, a new wave of the Bio Revolution in chemicals and materials is unfolding—with enormous potential impact.

As biological innovation meets downstream demand, a new wave of the Bio Revolution in chemicals and materials is unfolding—with enormous potential impact.

The three waves of innovation in biomaterials" 

The first wave of biomaterials spanned the millennia before the age of petroleum. Bio-based materials from plants or animals became a fixture of society and still surround us today in the form of wood, paper, leather, textiles, and numerous other derivatives that are used for adhesives, soaps, pigments, and other substances.

The second wave was catalyzed by the birth of biotech and recombinant DNA technology in the 1980s. These developments gave rise to companies like California-based Genencor and the modern industrial enzyme industry, which has led to dramatic improvements in products ranging from laundry detergent to animal feed.

This second wave reached its zenith when further advances in biotechnology collided with high prices for fossil-based chemical feedstock (oil, gas) and dot-com-era excitement in the mid-2000s, driving a boom in cleantech and biotech investments focused on commodity biofuels and biomaterials. Yet high fossil-based feedstock prices proved fleeting while rising prices on the biomaterials side and high volatility for renewable feedstocks such as corn and sugar through the 2000s further diminished any potential cost advantage. With the subsequent rise of fracking and electric vehicles, sustained fossil-based feedstock prices—more than $100/barrel for oil, for example—looked increasingly unrealistic.

As cost superiority to petrochemical production routes became a less attractive investment, many companies in the biomaterials sector went back to the drawing board and pivoted to specialty applications for which bio-based production could yield unique chemistries. Although the second wave ended with some disappointment, it taught critical lessons in techno-economic discipline while illustrating the enormous potential of biotechnology. .....'

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