Proposed ISU bioplastics center wins NSF planning grant

By Iowa State University | March 07, 2013

The Biopolymers and Biocomposites Research Team at Iowa State University has received a National Science Foundation planning grant to develop a center at that will focus on bioplastics and biocomposites.

The grant is from the NSF’s Industry/University Cooperative Research Program that helps build partnerships between industry, universities and government. An I/UCRC center is primarily supported by industry partners and conducts industry-relevant research. Becoming a partner has advantages including leveraging research and development efforts through the center's projects, receiving access to technologies developed by the center and having access to scientists and graduate students for future employment. The NSF provides management expertise and matching funds for the first five years with the potential for additional funding.

The I/UCRC Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (CB2) will be a collaboration between the BBRT at Iowa State and the Department of Plastics Engineering at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. David Grewell, CB2 director, chairman of the BBRT and associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, said Iowa State and UMass Lowell are well-suited to lead the proposed center.

“Iowa State is an established leader in the area of biobased products and UMass Lowell is a leader in the field of polymer processing,” he said. “By bringing together our expertise, we will be able to successfully transfer our ideas, results and technology to the U.S. plastics industry.”

Grewell also believes the new center could have a positive effect on the environment, as well as the economy. "Our hope is that CB2 will accelerate the demand for bioplastics in the marketplace and will create a substantial and sustainable workforce in the United States," he said.

CB2 will conduct research that promotes industry-wide acceptance of biobased plastics and composites and increases the use of sustainable materials. Grewell said that projects carried out by the center would look at all aspects in the development of biobased plastics including feedstock logistics; synthesis and compounding of materials; and economic and environmental analysis of new products.

The initial NSF grant will be used for a two-day planning workshop to be held at Iowa State later this year. Researchers from Iowa State and UMass Lowell and industry partners will discuss potential research projects as well as finalize the center's organizational structure and research thrust areas.

Any companies interested in becoming a member of CB2 and would like to attend the planning workshop should contact Grewell.