PLoS One. 2023 Jan 12;18(1):e0279659. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0279659. eCollection 2023.
Biorefineries are modern mechanisms used for producing value-added products and biofuels from different biomass sources. However, a crucial challenge is to achieve a sustainable model for their adequate implementation. Challenges related to technical efficiency and economic feasibility are two of the most relevant problems. Therefore, the present study sought to determine the current trends in basic research and technological development around biorefining and sustainability. We carried out a co-occurrence analysis and a patent analysis using data obtained from the Scopus and Lens databases to provide a general overview of the current state of this area of knowledge. The co-occurrence analysis intends to provide an overview of biorefining and sustainability based on terms associated with these two concepts as a starting point to determine the progress and existing challenges of the field. The results of the patent analysis consisted in identifying the main technological sectors, applicants, and territories where inventions associated with biorefining are registered. The analysis of the information showed that bioeconomy, techno-economic aspects, circular economy, technical issues associated with biomass production, and biofuels represent the focal point of basic research in a wide range of disciplines. Technology development is focused on fermentation, enzymes, and microorganisms, among other areas, which shows the validity of these traditional techniques in addressing the problems faced by the bioeconomy. This scenario shows that developed economies are the driving force behind this area of knowledge and that the PCT system is fundamental for the protection and commercialization of these inventions in places different from where they originated. Furthermore, the challenge lies in learning to work in alternative and complementary technological sectors, beyond microbiology and enzyme applications, in pursuit of the sector’s technical and economic feasibility.