Biodegradable plastic alternative synthesised
Scientists have successfully synthesised a polymer that is typically produced by bacteria, algae and other microorganisms, an advance that may lead to renewable and biodegradable plastics.
The compound called bacterial poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) or P3HB shows early promise as a substitute for petroleum plastics in major industrial uses. P3HB is a biomaterial, typically produced by bacteria, algae and other microorganisms, and is used in some biomedical applications.
Its high production costs and limited volumes render the material impractical in more widespread commodity applications, however. Researchers from Colorado State University in the US used a starting material called succinate, an ester form of succinic acid.
This acid is produced via fermentation of glucose and is first on the U.S. Department of Energy's list of top 12 biomass-derived compounds best positioned to replace petroleum-derived chemicals.
The new chemical synthesis route produces P3HB that's similar in performance to bacterial P3HB, but their route is faster and offers potential for larger-scale, cost-effective production for commodity plastic applications. This new route is enabled by a class of powerful new catalysts they have designed and synthesised. Researchers have filed a provisional patent.