Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Friday, December 17, 2010

NYU researcher pioneers bioplastics from omega-hydroxyfatty acids

Biotech Digest
December 17, 2010

In New York, Dr. Richard Gross, professor of chemical and biological science at Polytechnic Institute of New York University, has developed a method for producing a strong, highly ductile bioplastic using yeast and the fatty acids of plant oils. Like all plastics, the new material is a polymer — a large molecule comprised of smaller, repeating units called monomers. In this case, the monomer itself is relatively new.

The units are called omega-hydroxyfatty acids, and when strung together to form a polymer, they can produce a biologically friendly plastic. Until now, omega-hydroxyfatty acids were difficult and expensive to produce using traditional methods, prohibiting their widespread use. Gross produced the monomer in a first-of-its-kind fermentation process, a fairly quick, low-cost method. The monomer is then polymerized to form a bioplastic that biodegrades completely in soil.

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