Yuan said the bioeconomy and biomanufacturing sectors are a federal priority as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy points to bioeconomy infrastructure, innovation, products, technology and data to enhance U.S. economic growth.
The bioeconomy supports some 285,000 jobs and generates $48 billion in annual revenue.
"Innovation is the key to achieving growth and a more widespread use of biodegradable plastics. Lignocellulosic biorefinery commercialization is hindered by limited value-added products from biomass, lack of lignin utilization for fungible products and overall low-value output with ethanol as primary products," he said. "This recent discovery will make significant strides to overcome some of these challenges."
Yuan also touted the research for its environmentally friendly aspects.
"We are producing over 300 million tons of plastics each year," he said. "It's critical to replace those with biodegradable plastics. This work provides a path to produce bioplastics from common agriculture waste like [that from production of] corn and other grasses and wood.
"We think this research is very industrially relevant and could only help enable the biorefinery and polymer industries to [attain] greater efficiencies and economic opportunity."