In Iowa, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has added three years and $8.48 million to the grant supporting the NSF Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals based at Iowa State University.
That brings NSF’s total funding of the center (known as CBiRC, “See-burk”) to the maximum allowed: 10 years and $35.26 million. NSF support of the center began in September 2008 and will end in August 2018. After that, the center must be self-supporting.
Center researchers have expanded their approach to biorenewable chemicals. Instead of only finding biological sources for the same petroleum-based molecules used by the chemical industry, Brent Shanks, the center’s director and an Iowa State Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering, said that researchers are starting to produce new molecules.
“To me, the most powerful part of CBiRC is we’ve opened up new molecules for biorenewable chemicals,” Shanks said. “Petrochemicals are mature as a science and an industry. Now we’re coming up with new molecules produced from biological sources. We don’t know everything they can do yet, but they could lead to a whole new wave of innovation. Shanks likened the testbeds to the multidisciplinary project teams that chemical companies set up for their research and development work.
The center has spun off six startup companies over the last three years. More are expected.