The term “White biotechnology”, recently proposed by EU deciding bodies, is additionally gaining momentum now; it covers the sector of commercial biotechnology; with “white” also pertaining to the positive environmental aspects linked to the appliance of commercial biotechnology. This new biotechnology has developed into a main contributor to the so-called green chemistry, during which renewable resources like sugars or vegetable oils are transformed into a good sort of chemical substances such as fine and bulk chemicals, pharmaceuticals, biocolourants, solvents, bio plastics, vitamins, food additives as well as biofuels like bioethanol and biodiesel.
The implementation of commercial or “white” biotechnology offers significant ecological advantages. Renewable agricultural crops are the preferential starting materials, rather than dwindling fossil resources like crude oil and gas. This technology consequently features a beneficial effect on greenhouse emission emissions and at the same time supports the agricultural sector, delivering these raw materials. Moreover, industrial biotechnology frequently shows significant performance benefits compared to standard chemical technology, such as a higher reaction rate, increased conversion efficiency, improved product purity, lowered energy consumption and significant decrease in chemical waste generation. The combination of those factors has led to the recent strong penetration of commercial biotechnology altogether sectors of the chemical industry, particularly in fine chemicals but equally so for bulk chemicals like plastics and fuels.
Drivers of White Biotechnology
This development is now mainly driven by the laws of market economy, in sight of the upper efficiencies obtained by biotechnological production processes. In the near future, variety of societal and technological changes are expected to strengthen this trend even further, such as the depletion of petroleum reserves, the increased demand of a growing world population for raw materials and energy, the demand for sustainability and efficiency in chemical production systems and changes in agricultural policy.
The strong development of commercial biotechnology is of immediate interest to the economically important chemical and agro-industry. From the collaboration of these two industries, entirely new chemical activities can be created in the sort of bio-refineries. Also, industrial biotechnology may contribute significantly to the longer term of European agriculture. Furthermore, efforts to extend the general public awareness about industrial biotechnology are needed, with the added benefit that this is often likely to enhance the consumer’s perception of biotechnology as an entire, in sight of the clear link between industrial biotechnology and therefore the sustainable development of our society.
It is important to worry that industrial biotechnology is not the only technology during this go after sustainability. The most sustainable chemistry consists of an interplay between different technologies. In fact, it's common to obtain the simplest results from an appropriate combination of conventional chemical technology and industrial biotechnology. New processes increasingly seem to contain so-called combo-syntheses, consisting of variety of chemical and biotechnological steps. Also innovative separation technologies like membrane technology and therefore the
use of super-critical solvents are being increasingly integrated and help to extend the eco-efficiency of this “green chemistry”.