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 A Varied Menu
25.03.2019 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Key evidence associating hydrophobicity with effective acid catalysis
25.03.2019 | Tokyo Metropolitan University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Laser processing is a matter for the head – LZH at the Hannover Messe 2019

25.03.2019 | Trade Fair News

A Varied Menu

25.03.2019 | Life Sciences

‘Time Machine’ heralds new era

25.03.2019 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>