Chemists create new route to PHAs: Naturally degradable bioplastics

ScienceDaily | 11/21/2019 | Staff
erinmmarionerinmmarion (Posted by) Level 3
Meanwhile, in a Colorado State University chemistry laboratory, polymer scientists are toiling toward what they think is a viable solution. Every day, they are working on new chemistry for sustainable materials that could compete with, and eventually even replace, the hard-to-recycle, non-degradable commodity plastics that have overwhelmed our environment for decades.

Eugene Chen, professor in the Department of Chemistry, has led a new study demonstrating a chemical catalysis path for making an existing class of biomaterials -- already gaining momentum in industrial settings -- even more commercially viable and structurally diverse. The results are published in the journal Science, and the paper includes first author Xiaoyan Tang and graduate student co-authors Andrea Westlie and Eli Watson.

Years - Chen - Lab - Efforts - Set

In recent years, Chen has focused some of his lab's efforts on a set of biomaterials called PHAs, or polyhydroxyalkanoates. They're a class of polyesters, produced by bacteria, that are biodegradable to a degree not seen in commercial plastics. They beat out "compostable" bioplastics made out of polylactic acid (PLA) by degrading naturally in oceans and landfills, whereas PLA needs to be composted industrially. Some see PHAs as a beacon in a dark, plastics-filled world, with companies already trying to create an industry around such bio-based materials.

But PHAs have their limitations. They are made in bioreactors where communities of bacteria convert biorenewable carbon feedstocks, such as sugars, into the simplest form of PHA, called poly(3-hydroxybutyrate), or P3HB. Different carbon sources and bacteria can also make other PHA derivatives. These biosynthesis setups are...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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