Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Inspired by nature, Cornell chemist finds way to make biodegradable plastic that imitates bacteria

24.03.2003


Finding an economical way to make a polyester commonly found in many types of bacteria into a plastic with uses ranging from packaging to biomedical devices is a long-held scientific goal. Such a polymer would be a "green" plastic, in that it would be biodegradable.

Geoffrey Coates, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., has partially achieved this goal by discovering a highly efficient chemical route for the synthesis of the polymer, known as poly(beta-hydroxybutyrate) or PHB. The thermoplastic polyester is widely found in nature, particularly in some bacteria, where it is formed as intracellular deposits and used as a storage form of carbon and energy. And yet it shares many of the physical and mechanical properties of petroleum-based polypropylene, with the added benefit of being biodegradable.

Coates reported on his research group’s work with PHB in the first of two papers presented at the 225th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans at 3:30 p.m. CST Sunday, March 23.



PHB currently is produced through a costly, energy-intensive biological process involving the fermentation of sugar. However, the Coates group’s chemical route, once perfected, "is going to be a competitive strategy," the Cornell researcher believes.

In order to produce the polymer, the process first requires a monomer, in this case a lactone called beta-butyrolactone. This reacts with a zinc complex catalyst, discovered by Coates in the late 1990s, to make PHB.

The problem faced by the Coates group has been that beta-butyrolactone is a "handed" molecule, that is, it has two mirror images, like hands. Polymers produced from a mixture of two-handed forms have very poor properties. The researchers have been focusing on the development of a new catalyst for the production of the desired single-handed form of beta-butyrolactone, a process called carbonylation. The new catalyst, based on cobalt and aluminum, facilitates the addition of carbon monoxide to propylene oxide, an inexpensive ring compound called an epoxide. By using the commercially available handed form of propylene oxide in the reaction, the corresponding handed form of the lactone can be formed rapidly.

Coates is convinced that, "our carbonylation and polymerization processes are, in our opinion, the best." He adds, "A purely chemical route to a polymer that occurs in nature and is easily biodegradable is highly desirable."

Members of the Coates group at Cornell involved in the research include Yutan Getzler, Lee Rieth and Vinod Kundnani, all Ph.D. candidates, and postdoctoral associate Joseph Schmidt. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Nanobiotechnology Center at Cornell and the Cornell Center for Materials Research.

David Brand | Cornell University
Further information:
http://www.chem.cornell.edu/department/Faculty/Coates/coates.html
http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/March03/ACS.Coates.deb.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Research team creates new possibilities for medicine and materials sciences
22.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

nachricht Saarland University bioinformaticians compute gene sequences inherited from each parent
22.01.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Thanks for the memory: NIST takes a deep look at memristors

22.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

Radioactivity from oil and gas wastewater persists in Pennsylvania stream sediments

22.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Saarland University bioinformaticians compute gene sequences inherited from each parent

22.01.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks Wissenschaft & Forschung
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>