The Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM) is a non-profit private institution funded by the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations (MCTI). It consists of four National Laboratories: Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS), Brazilian Biosciences National Laboratory (LNBio), Brazilian Nanotechnology National Laboratory (LNNano) and Brazilian Biorenewables National Laboratory (LNBR).
LNBR employs biotechnology to address scientific and technological challenges of sustainable economic development. It aims to accelerate the transition from an industrial production based on fossil resources to a bio-based and renewable industry, which promotes Brazil’s technological independence and reduces environmental impacts. Because of that, LNBR is dedicated to the development of microorganisms and enzymes to establish new industrial production models that can generate wealth and jobs, while reducing the impacts on the environment. LNBR biotechnological platforms benefit economic sectors such as energy, transport, industry and agriculture. Synthetic, structural and computational biology are used to engineer and customize platforms for the production of biofuels, biochemicals and biomaterials. Platforms and processes can be validated at a semi-industrial scale (300 liters) at the Pilot Plant for Process Development, a unique facility in the country. These developments are supported by techno-economic and environmental assessments and Life-Cycle Analysis to guide and accelerate technology transfer and by monitoring ecosystem services at regional and country-wide scales to promote sustainable utilization of biomass.
LNBR harbors multidisciplinary scientific capabilities and advanced instrumentation required to bring technologies from fundamental principles to semi-industrial scale (TRL 1 to 7) including:
- mechanistic understanding of biological platforms at atomic and molecular levels to achieve high performance and industrial relevance,
- computational biocatalysis to address fundamental questions and guide the design of experiments,
- design and development of processes and technologies up to semi-industrial scale to accelerate technology transfer,
- modeling and simulations to assess techno-economic and environmental impacts of technology developments and to promote sustainable use of biomass and natural resources.
LNBR by numbers
In 2005, the Brazilian government, through the Center for Management and Strategic Studies (CGEE), commissioned exploratory research to the Interdisciplinary Nucleus of Energy Planning (NIPE/UNICAMP) to identify limiting factors in the Brazilian ethanol production. Physicist Rogério Cezar de Cerqueira Leite coordinated a group of about 30 researchers from several institutions to conduct a three-year study “Renewable Energies: Sugarcane Ethanol”.
The focus was on the impact of new agricultural and industrial technologies on the production of ethanol from sugarcane and on corresponding environmental, societal, macroeconomic and logistic assessments. The results indicated that there are technological bottlenecks to be overcome and the need to deepen the scientific and technological knowledge associated with ethanol production. These findings fueled discussions about the creation of a research center that would aggregate Brazilian research groups to address the bottlenecks of ethanol production.
Construction of the Brazilian Bioethanol Science and Technology Laboratory (CTBE) began in early 2009, under the leadership of prof. Marco Aurélio Pinheiro Lima. Its inauguration took place in 2010, becoming fully operational in 2012. For nearly a decade, CTBE has developed and continues to develop R&D partnerships with the sugar-energy industry and other industrial partners.
In 2018, CTBE was repositioned to reinforce CNPEM’s research agenda aiming at establishing new partnerships with the industrial biotechnology sector. In addition, the Laboratory has deepened its integration processes, seeking joint solutions with the other National Laboratories that comprise the Center.
As an element of the strategy, in 2019 CTBE became the Brazilian Biorenewables National Laboratory (LNBR). The change reflects new challenges: going beyond advanced biofuels and acting in biochemicals and biomaterials.