A team of Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists has developed a system that uses carbon dioxide, CO2, to produce biodegradable plastics, or bioplastics, which could replace the non-degradable plastics used today. The research focuses on two challenges: the accumulation of non-degradable plastics and the clean-up of greenhouse gas emissions.
Published on September 28 in Chemothe research was a collaboration of Susie Dai, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Texas A&M Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, and Joshua Yuan, Ph.D., formerly chairing the Texas A&M Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology for synthetic biology and renewable products and now Lopata Professor and Chair at Washington University in St. Louis Department of Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering.
Dai said today’s petroleum-based plastics don’t break down easily and are a huge problem in the ecosystems and ultimately the oceans.
To address these issues, researchers at the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and their teams spent nearly two years developing an integrated system that uses CO2 as a raw material for bacteria to grow in a nutrient solution and to produce bioplastics. Peng Zhang, Ph.D., postdoctoral research associate, and Kainan Chen, doctoral student, both in the Texas A&M Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, contributed to the work. The Texas A&M University System has filed a patent application for the integrated system.
“Carbon dioxide has been used along with bacteria to produce many chemicals, including bioplastics, but this design allows for a very efficient, smooth flow through our carbon dioxide-to-bioplastics pipeline,” Dai said.
“In theory, it’s kind of like a train with units connected together,” Dai said. “The first unit uses electricity to convert the carbon dioxide into ethanol and other two-carbon molecules — a process called electrocatalysis. In the second unit, the bacteria consume the ethanol and carbon molecules to become a machine to produce bioplastics , which are different from petroleum-based plastic polymers that are more difficult to break down.”
CO . capture and reuse2 waste
CO . to use2 in the process can also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many manufacturing processes emit CO. from2 as a waste product.
“If we can capture the waste carbon dioxide, we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and we can use it as a raw material to produce something,” Dai said. “This new platform has great potential to address sustainability challenges and transform the future design of carbon dioxide reduction.”
The great strength of the new platform is a much faster reaction speed than photosynthesis and a higher energy efficiency.
“We are expanding the capacity of this platform to broad product areas such as fuels, base chemicals and miscellaneous materials,” said Dai. “The study demonstrated the blueprint for ‘carbonized bioproduction’ that could transform our manufacturing sector.”
Expanding Future Effects
Dai said at this point that bioplastics are more expensive than petroleum-based plastics. But if the technology is successful enough to produce bioplastics on an economic scale, industries can replace traditional plastic products with products that have fewer negative environmental impacts. In addition, reducing CO2 emissions from energy sectors such as gas and electrical installations would also be an advantage.
“This innovation opens the door for new products as the bacterium is designed to consume carbon dioxide-derived molecules and produce target products,” Dai said. “One of the advantages of this design is that the bacteria they grow in are mild and adaptable to industrial-scale conditions.”
A groundbreaking discovery in the conversion of carbon capture for ethylene production
Peng Zhang et al, Chem-Bio interface design for rapid conversion of CO2 to bioplastics in an integrated system, Chemo (2022). DOI: 10.116/j.chempr.2022.09.005
Provided by Texas A&M University
Quote: Team designs system to make bioplastics (2022, September 28) retrieved September 28, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-team-bioplastics.html
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