More than 20 million tons of plastic are placed in U.S. landfills each year. Results from a new University of Missouri study suggest that some of the largely petroleum-based plastic may soon be replaced by a nonpolluting, renewable plastic made from plants. Reducing the carbon footprint and the dependence on foreign oil, this new 'green' alternative may also provide an additional cash crop for farmers.
"Making plastics from plants is not a new idea," said Brian Mooney, research assistant professor of biochemistry with the MU Interdisciplinary Plant Group. "Plastics made from plant starch and soy protein have been used as an alternative to petroleum-based plastics for a while. What is relatively new - and exciting - is the idea of using plants to actually grow plastics."
By employing a number of modern molecular techniques, scientists are able to introduce three bacterial enzymes into the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. When combined with two enzymes from the plant, an organic polymer is produced. The polymer, known as polyhdroxybutyrate-co-polyhydroxyvalerate, or PHBV, is a flexible and moldable plastic that can be used to produce a wide range of products, such as grocery bags, soda bottles, disposable razors and flatware. When discarded, the plastic is naturally degraded into water and carbon dioxide by bacteria in the soil.
"Of the two plant enzymes that supply the chemical precursors for PHBV, one is produced in the mitochondria. Recently, we’ve successfully modified plants so that this enzyme is diverted to the chloroplast, which has been defined as the best place in the plant to produce PHBV," said Mooney, who is also associate director of the Charles Gehrke Proteomics Center in the MU Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center. "We also confirmed that a stable, functional complex is formed."
These recent advances potentially remove two of the remaining technological hurdles limiting the ability of companies from turning acres of weeds into plastic factories. The next step, said Mooney, is to see if the technique works in 'real' plants, such as switchgrass. Mooney along with Douglas Randall, professor of biochemistry at MU, have already initiated conversations with scientists at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Mo., and the Cambridge, Mass.- based, environmental tech company Metabolix Inc.
Metabolix and the Danforth Center were recently awarded a $1.14 million grant from the Missouri Technology Corporation to produce a "double-crop" that would produce both a bioplastic and an oil for biodiesel refineries. Metabolix has already successfully produced one form of biodegradable plastic in switchgrass, but yield is too low. MU researchers hope their advances will lead to higher yield of a more useable plastic.
Mooney reviews the production of biodegradable plastics in "The second green revolution? Production of plant-based biodegradable plastics," which appears in the latest issue of BJ Plant.
Melody Kroll | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Arabidopsis thaliana > Biochemistry > Carbon > Chloroplast > Footprint > Green Plastics > Making plastics from plants > Metabolix > PHBV > Plastics > bacterial enzymes > biodegradable plastics > carbon footprint > cash crop > nonpolluting > petroleum-based plastic > polyhdroxybutyrate-co-polyhydroxyvalerate > renewable plastic
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The disappearance of common species
01.02.2018 | Technical University of Munich (TUM)
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).
Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
16.02.2018 | Information Technology
16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy