Scientists at University College Dublin (UCD) have discovered a bacteria strain that converts styrene into a biodegradable plastic. Speaking at the Society for Microbiology’s meeting this week the team said the bacteria has been used to make polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) from styrene. Given the correct stimuli the bacteria – Pseudomonas putida – convert the styrene into simple carbon units that are polymerised within the cell to form PHA.
Kevin O’Connor, from UCD’s Department of Industrial Microbiology, told PRW.com: “The bacteria use styrene as a source of carbon and a source of energy, with an end result of 100% degradation of styrene, with one end product PHA.”
The PHA is a partially crystalline elastomer when the process is completed. End uses could include medical implants, scaffolds for tissue engineering, wound management, drug carriers, plastic coating of cardboard and heat resistant plastic. Some end uses require the addition of fillers to strengthen the plastic, said O’Connor.
The UCD team now hopes to improve the process by increasing the scale of the operation, and increasing the efficiency of the bacteria’s action, to make commercially useful amounts of the PHA plastic. Bioplastics, a conference organised by EPN and PRW, will be held in Frankfurt on 8-9 December. For more details, visit www.plastics-events.com.
Source: PRW.com Sept. 09, 2004.