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Secretion Based Recovery of Bioplastics

In 2007, 31 million tons of plastic were disposed in the US, including over 3 trillion shopping bags and 500 billion plastic bottles. Such petrochemically-derived plastics are non-renewable and non-biodegradable, and the vast majority of it is not recycled but instead ends up in landfills. Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are microbially-accumulated carbon and energy storage compounds that can be utilized as a biodegradable and renewable source of bioplastics. Present methods of recovering such bioplastics require costly chemical solvents or cell disruption equipment, and PHA recovery from the cells accounts for 50% of the total process expense. Researchers at Utah State University have developed a biosynthetic secretion system that eliminates the need of chemical solvents or cell disruption and allows for continuous production of PHAs from live cells.
Features and Benefits
  • Commercial plastics
    • Containers
    • Packaging materials
  • Agriculture
    • Covering/Mulching film
  • Textiles/Materials
    • Breathable plastics
  • Medical
    • Bio-compatible material for temporary surgical implants
    • Oral hygiene
  • Recovery method eliminates the need of solvents and cell disruption equipment, reducing the overall production cost
  • Environmentally friendly end product increases marketability to consumers
  • In medical applications, greater bio-compatibility of bioplastics than regular plastics results in a high demand product
The biosynthetic secretion system utilizes phasin, a PHA associated protein capable of binding to intracellular PHA granules. By genetically modifying microbial cultures to manufacture this protein with an appended secretion signal peptide, the cell is able to secrete the resulting PHA-phasin complexes, allowing more direct and less expensive recovery of the bioplastic product.
Development Stage
Genetic library created and secretion of phasin shown. Foundational evidence established for further study with PHAs.
Patent Pending
Berry Treat
Senior Commercialization Associate
Life Sciences
(435) 797-4569
Reference: W09075