Design of a Sustainable Manufacturing Process to Produce Penicillin V Using Waste Paper as a Glucose Feedstock; Evaluating Sociotechnical Imaginaries for the Implementation of Bioeconomies Across Countries of Varying Levels of Industrialization

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Ruppert, Nathaniel, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Anderson, Eric, Engineering Undergraduate, University of Virginia
Ferguson, Sean, Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

One of the most pressing issues with the modernization of society is the negative effects it imparts on the environment as an unintended consequence. At the forefront of this issue is the production of waste such as plastics, paper, and other items made using fossil fuels. To better understand the potential to modify societal progression to be more environmentally friendly, these technical and STS syntheses describe methods to change current production methods on a local and macro scale by designing an antibiotic manufacturing plant and evaluating societal commitments for transitions to sustainable production methods. The technical thesis proposes an innovative method to manufacture a common antibiotic, Penicillin V, using wastepaper as a raw material. In doing so, the carbon footprint of such a process can be reduced with the added benefit of waste disposal as compared to conventional manufacturing processes. The plant was designed to be in South Africa, an area with historically inequitable access to antibiotics compared to post-industrial nations. An economic analysis of the venture showed that it would likely be profitable despite the costs associated with using wastepaper. The STS thesis explores how countries at different stages of industrialization have different goals and imaginaries that motivate their investment in an economic transition to a bioeconomy, which is an economy based largely on using natural resources to make value-added products using sustainable methods. The analysis resulted in the discovery that the driving forces for a bioeconomy are unique to the political and social stage of each country. As a result, points of contention are also unique to each country, with agrarian societies largely debating how the structure of a formal bioeconomy plan should look, while postindustrial societies tend to debate the ethics regarding bioeconomy implementation and utilization. These two projects were beneficial for my studies as they helped me hone my skills in collaboration and analytical reasoning. One of the major benefits of working on a project with multiple societal benefits associated with its implementation is that new perspectives can be developed using statistics during the project that inform future design decisions. For example, the lack of antibiotic access in numerous countries was an issue that I had not yet been exposed to, but the technical project served as a theoretical aid in solving the problem. The STS project was similarly beneficial in determining macro scale issues that influence the implementation of plants like the one designed in the technical thesis.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Antibiotic, Penicillin V, Wastepaper, Glucose Production, Chemical Engineering, Imaginaries, Bioeconomy, Glucose

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Eric Anderson
STS Advisor: Sean Ferguson
Technical Team Members: Kingsford Yeboah, Shining Wang, Justin Harrington, Patrick Bruns

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