Tech Innovation Acceptance Speech – By Dr. Chengy Gwengo

Ladies and gentlemen, I am humbled, honored, and excited to receive the Global Pittsburgh Technological Innovation award on behalf of BioFuran Materials LLC. My acceptance and receipt of this award would not be complete without taking a brief walk with you along memory lane, to see where BioFuran Materials is coming from.

BioFuran Materials is a family-owned business formed around the core idea to transform the sourcing of raw materials in the specialty chemical supply chain. Our mission is to build a sustainable chemical manufacturing platform that delivers the best benefits to all stakeholders by lowering the cost of chemicals, creating new uses for prematurely wasted resources, minimizing the negative impact of today’s harsh mainstream chemicals as well as promoting clean cities. We take pride in developing simple chemical manufacturing methods using inexpensive starting materials.

Ladies and gentlemen, the crafting of BioFuran Materials’ sustainable chemical manufacturing platform started in 2011 at Claflin University where I mentored students on converting molasses, an undervalued sugarcane processing by-product, into 5-hydromethylfurfural (HMF) and 5-chloromethylfurfural (CMF) which the Department of Energy classified as high value ‘platform’ chemicals.

In 2016, my wife and Operations Manager (Tindo) and I extended the food waste diversion approach to the manufacturing of fruit juice enriched soaps using juices extracted from rejected, cheap, ugly or misfit fruits.

The local food waste statistics published in the Pittsburgh Magazine of September 2019 noted that 6.8 million pounds of retail, bakery, and catering food rejects could be recovered annually and diverted from landfills. Realizing the local abundance of wasted foods, BioFuran Materials is developing scalable methods to transform wasted foods into chloride-free deicing salts, fragrance oils, refrigerants, animal feed additives, electrolytes, non-volatile ionic liquids (green industrial solvents), paraben-free cosmetic preservatives, etc.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am excited to share that BioFuran Materials has completed their first year in business and the journey this far has been challenging and fun. The COVID-19 pandemic surely slowed down our progress, but I am glad to report that BioFuran Materials has commercialized 23 catalog reagent chemicals! To mitigate some of the challenges, we are forging strategic partnerships with academics, national labs, and businesses. Examples include the following:

  • Developing fragrance oils for a local artisanal candle manufacturing startup
  • Development of a smart, environmentally benign, passive deicer branded NOICE (No ice) with local university partner
  • Developing an operator-friendly, fatty acid-based, household & commercial cleaning formula for a local startup
  • Working with the national lab partner to develop a fatty acid (instead of corrosive mineral acid) method of recovering spent battery metals

Thank you for your attention ladies and gentlemen and please help us expand the ‘food waste-to-safer chemicals’ platform around Pittsburgh and beyond!

BioFuran Materials LLC
920 William Pitt Way
Pittsburgh, PA 15238

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