Key materials for society that are derived from renewable resources include paper, cotton fabrics, and wood-based composite products. Materials at the forefront of sustainable biomaterials, such as nanocellulose, have great promise to enable technologies that transcend current technical boundaries, like eco-friendly printed electronics and flexible displays (see image).
The finite nature of fossil fuels requires that we find alternative ways to produce chemicals and fuels that are currently derived from petroleum. Moreover, new materials are needed to replace non-sustainable materials, such as polystyrene, that are filling up our landfills. The Sustainable Biomaterials Science track prepares students to contribute in important ways to advancing sustainable material technologies and developing new materials and conversion processes.
Courses in the Sustainable Biomaterials Science track give you a strong scientific foundation to understand the chemical and physical properties of plant-based and other renewable resources and natural and industrial processes for their biosynthesis, biodegradation, and industrial conversion into materials, chemicals, and energy.
Here you will learn by doing, and experiencing; from visiting a business, like a paper mill, testing your hypotheses in laboratory or field research (either in the summer or during the semester), and participating in field studies and laboratory courses. Moreover, the department maintains close connections to companies that offer paid summer internships, providing great opportunities to apply what you have learned in a professional setting.
The Sustainable Biomaterials Science track option enables you to understand technical, scientific, and environmental aspects of biobased materials, and how we can make and process them. It prepares you for careers in which you draw upon this understanding to solve product quality or manufacturing issues, provide solutions to customers, show customers the technical benefits of biobased products, or support the development of new materials and processes. The track also provides a solid foundation for graduate studies, opening up higher-level career opportunities. Examples of occupational titles for entry-level positions are
• Technical Service Representative
• Technical Sales Representative
• Chemical Technician
• Quality Control Analyst
• Product Specialist
• Research Associate
• R&D Chemist
“What are Sustainable Biomaterials? We are using everything that is renewable … from the land to the sea. From the sea we have algae and kelp that we can turn into polymeric materials for drug delivery systems. …On land and we have grasses, bamboo, and wood and we can turn those into bioenergy and biomaterials and bioplastics. … What this department is doing is looking towards the future. Virginia Tech is a great school, the department is even better — its individual attention, small class sizes, great teachers that do whatever they can to meet whatever requirements and needs you have. A really compassionate group of people. They love what they do and they express that in their teachings. … They make you want to learn.”
“I am a chemist in the Upstream Research group at Bostik. In this group, I have the opportunity to investigate the next generation of adhesives, helping to shape the future of how our homes, cars, and consumer products are bonded together. One of my special projects is to identify sustainable bonding solutions. Just a few of the qualities I target are the renewable content, biodegradability, and recyclability of our raw materials and final products. As the demand for sustainable products continues to grow, it is my job to ensure that Bostik has the technology to match.”