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 Rising water temperatures could endanger the mating of many fish species
03.07.2020 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht Moss protein corrects genetic defects of other plants
03.07.2020 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

Im Focus: The lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.

Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...

Im Focus: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

Im Focus: ILA Goes Digital – Automation & Production Technology for Adaptable Aircraft Production

Live event – July 1, 2020 - 11:00 to 11:45 (CET)
"Automation in Aerospace Industry @ Fraunhofer IFAM"

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM l Stade is presenting its forward-looking R&D portfolio for the first time at...

Im Focus: AI monitoring of laser welding processes - X-ray vision and eavesdropping ensure quality

With an X-ray experiment at the European Synchrotron ESRF in Grenoble (France), Empa researchers were able to demonstrate how well their real-time acoustic monitoring of laser weld seams works. With almost 90 percent reliability, they detected the formation of unwanted pores that impair the quality of weld seams. Thanks to a special evaluation method based on artificial intelligence (AI), the detection process is completed in just 70 milliseconds.

Laser welding is a process suitable for joining metals and thermoplastics. It has become particularly well established in highly automated production, for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rising water temperatures could endanger the mating of many fish species

03.07.2020 | Life Sciences

Risk of infection with COVID-19 from singing: First results of aerosol study with the Bavarian Radio Chorus

03.07.2020 | Studies and Analyses

Efficient, Economical and Aesthetic: Researchers Build Electrodes from Leaves

03.07.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>