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SBIR Phase II: High-Performance and Green Materials Based on Engineered Cellulose-Producing Bacteria

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 2310226
Agency Tracking Number: 2310226
Amount: $1,000,000.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: M
Solicitation Number: NSF 23-516
Solicitation Year: 2023
Award Year: 2023
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2023-09-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2025-08-31
Small Business Information
17 Briden St Suite 312
Worcester, MA 01605
United States
HUBZone Owned: Yes
Woman Owned: Yes
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Lina Gonzalez
 (347) 513-1480
Business Contact
 Lina Gonzalez
Phone: (347) 513-1480
Research Institution

The broader/commercial impact of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project is the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by replacing plastics with cellulose secreted by genetically modified bacteria in the form of synthetic leather. This substitution effort will assist the USA in reaching net-zero GHG emissions by saving over 660 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) or CO2-equivalent gases by 2050. Replacing synthetic leathers made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) polyurethane (PU) or hide-based leather with bacterial cellulose will have significant environmental benefits. Being petroleum-based, PVC and PU production has significant GHG emissions. Genuine leather requires transport of hides to tanneries, most of which are no longer located in the USA.Additionally, the water-intensive tanning and dyeing processes produce toxic wastes. In contrast, growth and processing of bacterial cellulose produces little to no toxic waste and few GHG emissions. Further, the material is biodegradable (unlike PVC or PU), which is appealing to consumers in the rapidly growing market for vegan leather. Scale-up of the production to replace plastics worldwide with this sustainable material will reduce trash generation and alleviate the problem of plastic waste in the environment. _x000D_
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will enhance the properties of the existing synthetic leather materials and will develop the technology to produce large quantities of the material at low cost. Composed of bacterial cellulose, this high-performance, environmentally friendly material will impact the textile, construction, and packaging industries. The material looks, feels, and performs like real leather having desirable properties such as suppleness, sew-ability, and high tensile strength. The initial focus will be on creating a vegan leather alternative consisting of multiple cellulose sheets combined using a proprietary formulation. This project will enable the refinement of the material to meet industry standards for durability (e.g., water resistance, flex resistance, abrasion resistance, colorfastness) and aesthetics (color and patterns) and will develop the processes for producing the material at a commercial scale to meet market demand for quantity and price. Further, the fast-growing bacterial strains provide a competitive advantage for scale-up. The research will provide a solid scientific foundation to produce much larger quantities of this cellulose-based material at competitive prices for other applications such as insulation for the construction industry._x000D_
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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