Wyss Institute Research scientists developing bioplastics from microbes

April 23, 2020 |

In Massachusetts, Wyss Institute Research scientists are taking on the challenge of developing sustainable plastics that provide the same properties as fossil-based plastics and are cheap but are also biodegradable that don’t require the use of plants at all, and have a negligible carbon footprint: microbes.

They honed in on a specific microbe called Cupriavidus necator, which takes in hydrogen and carbon dioxide gases and uses a process called gas fermentation to convert them into essential molecules. One of the compounds the microbe produces is a polymer called PHB, a kind of polyester that it uses as a form of energy storage. PHB itself is not a great polymer for plastics—it is very brittle and is difficult to manufacture objects from—but the researchers have found a way to tweak the microbe’s metabolism so that it produces a similar polyester called PHA instead, which is more flexible and is already being investigated as a biodegradable plastic alternative.

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Category: Research

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