A team of researchers led by Professor of Chemistry Eugene Chen has conducted an extensive study on Biodegradable Plastic Alternative a polymer called bacterial poly (3-hydroxybutyrate) – P3HB. And initial findings about this study suggest that the compound can be used as a substitute for petroleum plastics, especially the ones utilized in major industrial sectors. This study was first described in Nature Communications, last week.
More Insights into the Polymer Biodegradable Plastic Alternative
P3HB us a biomaterial, and is typically produced by bacteria, algae, and other microorganisms. It is mainly used in a few biomedical applications. The compound can be processed in laboratories, but at a very high cost. And in spite of such costs, a very limited volume of the polymer can be produced. Thus, these reasons are causing the use of this polymer material highly impractical in several applications.
While conducting the research, at the initial stages, the team of researchers under Professor Chen used a material called succinate, which is an ester form of succinic acid. This team also includes the relevant research paper’s first author and research scientist, Xiaoyan Tang. The acid is produced through fermentation of glucose. Moreover this substance is placed by the U.S. Department of Energy in the top 12 biomass-derived compounds as a hope for replaced petroleum derived chemicals in future.
Chemical synthesis carried out by the researchers produces P3HB that is similar in performance to bacterial P3HB. However, this technique is faster and offers high potential in terms of large-scale and cost-effective production rates, ultimately to be used for commodity plastic applications. This new method works best with a group of new catalysts, which also have been designed and synthesized. The team has applied for a provisional patent through CSU Ventures for the new technology, as a first step towards production of a polymer alternative to plastic, which is both biodegradable and biorenewable.