Develop the research thrusts and assemble the team for the creation of a Center focused on transforming polymers, agricultural and food waste to valuable chemicals, specialty fuels, and materials.
Sustainable manufacturing will require a shift from cradle-to-grave thinking towards cradle-to-cradle recycling. Already widely practiced for metals, this Challenge Grant aims to extend this concept to organic materials via chemical disassembly, separation, and upgrading. The target organic waste streams are those containing synthetic and naturally-occurring macromolecules, notably, polymers, lignocellulosic agricultural wastes, and food waste. Problems of waste will be tackled through development of sustainable catalytic and biological transformation technologies to recover valuable chemicals and fuels from agricultural and food waste as well as synthetic polymers. Examples of the intended uses for the recycled chemicals include specialty fuels (such as jet and diesel), lubricants, surfactants, and novel materials. A multi-disciplinary team that includes experts in molecular synthesis, catalysis science, separations, bio- and microbial transformations, chemical engineering, polymer science, and life cycle analysis (LCA) will be assembled in order to compete in the NSF Science and Technology Center (STC) funding call expected in 2018.