Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bioengineers succeed in producing plastics without the use of fossil fuels

Date:
November 26, 2009
Source:
Wiley-Blackwell
Summary:
Scientists have succeeded in producing the polymers used for everyday plastics through bioengineering, rather than through the use of fossil fuel based chemicals, heralding the creation of environmentally conscious plastics.

Computer rendering of E. coli bacteria. A newly developed E. coli strain is capable of efficiently producing unnatural polymers, through a one-step fermentation process.
Credit: iStockphoto/Sebastian Kaulitzki

A team of pioneering South Korean scientists have succeeded in producing the polymers used for everyday plastics through bioengineering, rather than through the use of fossil fuel based chemicals. This groundbreaking research, which may now allow for the production of environmentally conscious plastics, is published in two papers in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering.

Polymers are molecules found in everyday life in the form of plastics and rubbers. The team, from the KAIST University and the Korean chemical company LG Chem, led by Professor Sang Yup Lee focused their research on polylactic acid (PLA), a bio-based polymer which holds the key to producing plastics through natural and renewable resources.

"The polyesters and other polymers we use everyday are mostly derived from fossil oils made through the refinery or chemical process," said Lee. "The idea of producing polymers from renewable biomass has attracted much attention due to the increasing concerns of environmental problems and the limited nature of fossil resources. PLA is considered a good alternative to petroleum based plastics as it is both biodegradable and has a low toxicity to humans."

Until now PLA has been produced in a two-step fermentation and chemical process of polymerization, which is both complex and expensive. Now, through the use of a metabolically engineered strain of E.coli, the team has developed a one-stage process which produces polylactic acid and its copolymers through direct fermentation. This makes the renewable production of PLA and lactate-containing copolymers cheaper and more commercially viable.

"By developing a strategy which combines metabolic engineering and enzyme engineering, we've developed an efficient bio-based one-step production process for PLA and its copolymers," said Lee. "This means that a developed E. coli strain is now capable of efficiently producing unnatural polymers, through a one-step fermentation process,"

This combined approach of systems-level metabolic engineering and enzyme engineering now allows for the production of polymer and polyester based products through direct microbial fermentation of renewable resources.

"Global warming and other environmental problems are urging us to develop sustainable processes based on renewable resources," concluded Lee. "This new strategy should be generally useful for developing other engineered organisms capable of producing various unnatural polymers by direct fermentation from renewable resources".


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Taek Ho Yang, Tae Wan Kim, Hye Ok Kang, Sang-Hyun Lee, Eun Jeong Lee, Sung-Chul Lim, Sun Ok Oh, Ae-Jin Song, Si Jae Park, Sang Yup Lee. Biosynthesis of polylactic acid and its copolymers using evolved propionate CoA transferase and PHA synthase. Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 2010; 105 (1): 150 DOI: 10.1002/bit.22547
  2. Yu Kyung Jung, Tae Yong Kim, Si Jae Park, Sang Yup Lee. Metabolic engineering of Escherichia coli for the production of polylactic acid and its copolymers. Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 2010; 105 (1): 161 DOI: 10.1002/bit.22548

Cite This Page:

Wiley-Blackwell. "Bioengineers succeed in producing plastics without the use of fossil fuels." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091123083702.htm>.
Wiley-Blackwell. (2009, November 26). Bioengineers succeed in producing plastics without the use of fossil fuels. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091123083702.htm
Wiley-Blackwell. "Bioengineers succeed in producing plastics without the use of fossil fuels." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091123083702.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) Rescuers were forced to suspend plans to recover at least two dozen bodies from near the summit of Mount Ontake in central Japan on Tuesday after increased seismic activity raised concern about the possibility of another eruption. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins