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.
David Brand | Cornell University
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