We propose the development of a novel concept, that of the “Biorefinery”, in which basic chemicals are produced from renewable resources, specifically biomass, before being converted to a broad range of chemical products, including fuels, fine chemicals and advanced materials using sustainable processes. In order to support the shift from oil-dependant societies to recycling-oriented societies, and to contribute towards the prevention of global warming, research into biorefineries has been promoted all over the world. To establish Japan as a world leader in the development of a recycling-oriented and sustainable society, we have established a biorefinery research center to accelerate fundamental and practical research via close academic cooperation and collaboration. In summary, the objectives of our center are to contribute towards the establishment of a sustainable society by developing novel biorefinery technologies and processes, as well as human resource development through education, research and the practical application of these technologies.
Concepts and Outline
In order to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, to reduce the production of greenhouse gases such as CO2, and to establish a recycling-oriented society that can develop in a sustainable manner, biorefinery research and development are being promoted enthusiastically worldwide. It is intended that biorefinery processes will replace the energy and products derived from fossil fuels with those derived from biomass, which is a renewable and carbon-neutral resource. In order to realize the concept of the biorefinery through the development of innovative technologies and highly efficient production processes, we promote research and education in the four core areas described below:
Mechanisms of enzymatic reactions and cellular functions
Research in this area contributes to the development of novel and sensitive technologies for detecting and observing phenomena that occur in solution and/or at interfaces. Various analytical techniques are used to conduct theoretical and fundamental research on complex reaction processes. In addition, investigation of cellular functions is conducted using technologies employed in system biology and integrated bio-informatics.
Design and creation of super-enzymes and cell factories
Based on fundamental research, we are creating super-enzymes that possess advanced functions and stability. We are also producing novel cell factories based on the re-programming of metabolic pathways using synthetic biological approaches.
Production of genetically modified biomass crops
Separation systems based on highly functional nano-structured membranes will be developed and applied to the conservation of water resources. We are also developing biomass crops suitable for biorefinery processes by genetic modification, for example, plants with higher cellulose content, which can then easily be converted to carbohydrates by external enzymes.
Development of biorefinery processes
Utilizing super-enzymes and cell factories, we are developing biological processes in which biomass is converted into the basic chemical building blocks which can then converted into a broad range of value-added materials via environmentally-benign processes. We are also developing novel technologies and processes to produce highly-functional nano- and eco-composites.