Published on Wednesday, September 6, 2023
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Experts from the National University of Costa Rica (UNA), Texas Tech University, the National Nanotechnology Laboratory (LANOTEC) and the IDB Lab, held the first Biomaterials congress "A Biologically Based Future" in Costa Rica.
The goal was to raise awareness and discuss the potential of organic biomaterials and biodiversity to promote new products, such as renewable gasoline, in Costa Rica.
Renewable gasoline (also called green or drop-in gasoline) is a fuel produced from biomass sources through a variety of biological, thermal, and chemical processes.
According to the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE), national and international experts participated in the event, where they discussed the potential for developing new solutions based on organic materials that replace petroleum derivatives and in which our country could find either new market niches or opportunities for local ventures and new foreign direct investment in Costa Rica.
“Since 2021, CINDE and the IDB LAB – the Inter-American Development Bank’s laboratory – have implemented a project that promotes an ecosystem of innovation in the field of biomaterials," said Marianela Urgellés, the Managing Director of CINDE. "We are fully convinced of Costa Rica’s great potential to create nature-based solutions and in our ability to leverage our biodiversity; our tradition of sustainability, which distinguishes us the world over; and the country's commitment to education."
Experts stated that Costa Rica is home to 5.1% of the world's biodiversity. This natural wealth is the country’s secret to positioning itself as the new headquarters for biological materials that will revolutionize industries.
"This ‘Biomaterials Hub’ represents an opportunity for researchers and companies to meet, share their knowledge, and explore opportunities for collaboration,” Urgellés said.
The National University supports research related to the use of biomass (the use of organic matter for multiple purposes), biorefinery (biomass processing for energy production), and other lines of research related to the bioeconomy.
Projects based on bio-design, which integrates organisms or living systems as essential components of either the products or the design processes – for example, via the use of mushrooms, pineapple, corn starch, or cassava starch.
One of the presented cases during the event was that of Nicoverde, a company created in Costa Rica and funded through Italian capital. Nicoverde exports various pineapple-based products, mainly to the European market.
The company managed to transform pineapple waste into biomaterials, such as biomass from which textiles can be obtained, or nutritional supplements, such as edible mushrooms that undergo processes to become the well-known "meat of the future," due to their high nutritional value. There are also other treatments, thanks to pineapple bromerin with which meats are softened and solutions to digestive problems are obtained.
According to CINDE, the next steps to develop the biomass industrial in Costa Rica are to raise awareness regarding the benefits and possible applications of biomaterials, promote further applied research, translate innovative research into products and solutions that benefit society, and avoid allowing ideas to remain only within the realm of academia.
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