Future Directions in Chemical and Bioengineering Report
Chemical and biological engineers use math, physics, chemistry, and biology to develop chemical transformations and processes, creating useful products and materials that improve society. In recent years, the boundaries between chemical engineering and bioengineering have blurred as biology has become molecular science, more seamlessly connecting with the historic focus of chemical engineering on molecular interactions and transformations. This blurred line creates new opportunities for the next generation of engineered systems – hybrid systems that integrate the specificity of biology with chemical and material systems to enable novel applications in catalysis, biomaterials, electronic materials, and energy conversion materials.
This workshop, which was sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research, sought, within the disciplines of chemical engineering and bioengineering, to identify current knowledge gaps and critical pathways, determine where and how creative intellectual and funding leadership could enable transformative progress in the next 10 to 20 years, and anticipate what is required to make that progress a reality. At the meeting outset, current and emerging foci of chemical and bioengineering research were explored in four core areas: materials, molecules, modeling and systems. Through two and one-half days of discussion the attendees settled upon four key emerging areas for chemical engineering and bioengineering: sensors, molecules and sensors from building blocks, emergent systems, and energy and identified three areas for focused investment now: bottom-up synthesis, systematic integration and scalable manufacturing, and cell-free synthesis. The report provides background and context for these emerging and focused investment areas and what they can enable.