The University of Manchester says it has made a biotech breakthrough which means it can convert waste biomass into high-value chemicals more easily and cheaply.
It says the discovery will lead to a more sustainable bio-based economy and enable the shift away from fossil fuels.
The collaboration between the UK and Brazil has shown that waste sugar cane and wheat straw from agricultural processes can be made directly into valuable chemicals with a 5,000-fold value increase.
This is done through biocatalytic treatment of the waste plant matter to release and convert ferulic acid into coniferol, a plant-based ‘building block’ used to make food, drugs and other household products.
This chemical can now be produced directly from waste biomass in a single ‘one-pot’ process, making the economics of biofuel production from plant-based sources more viable.
Dr Neil Dixon from the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, said: “Sustainable production of fine chemicals and biofuels from renewable biomass offers a potential alternative to the continued use of finite geological oil reserves.
“However, in order to compete with current petrochemical refinery processes, alternative biorefinery processes must overcome significant costs and productivity barriers.”