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BIOPOLYMER RESEARCH

Background Information:
Biopolymers occur naturally, e.g. starch, cellulose, cotton, proteins
Biopolymers can be made using renewable resources such as plants and microorganisms
Biopolymers are renewable, biodegradable and biocompatible
Biopolymers can be modified, e.g. rayon and cellophane are modified cellulose

Production of the biopolymer (Poly-3-hydroxybutyrate)

Formula of biopolymer

Organism or enzyme Micro-organisms such as


used to produce this Alcaligenes Eutrophus
biopolymer Ralstonia eutrophus
Methylobacterium rhodesianum
Bacillus megaterium

How is it produced? Steps


1. Bacteria is placed in a rich medium allowing them to grow in large
numbers
2. Bacterial colony is then placed in a nitrogen deficient environment
with high quantities of carbon.

These conditions promote the storage of carbon in the form of the desired
plastic PHB which can then be extracted from the colony through hot
chloroform (trichloromethane). This is response to the conditions of
limited nutrients for the micro organisms

How has the Production process too expensive and large colonies of bacteria are needed
production process and is still in its early stages of large scale production and use.
changed over time? It can also become thermally unstable which decreases production
Hints: e.g. is it now efficiency . PHB is stable to air and moisture, but under anaerobic
more efficient, does it conditions it is attacked and decomposed by anaerobic bacteria further.
use new technology
such as genetic ICI had developed the material to pilot plant stage in the 1980s, but
engineering? interest faded when it became clear that the cost of material was too high,
and its properties could not match those of polypropylene.

Properties and Uses of the biopolymer (Poly-3-hydroxybutyrate)


Use Properties that allow it to be used this way

Disposable nappies Biodegradable


and bags Decomposing into carbon dioxide and water, which gives it a large
environmental advantage over other polymers which take up large
amounts of space in landfills.

Alternative to plastics Naturally occurring


PHB is both nontoxic and renewable, offering an eco- friendly alternative
to most plastics.

Medical instruments Biocompatible


Compatible with biological systems, PHB has a highly practical application
in the medical industry.

Substitute for Although PHB has a chemical structure markedly different from the
polypropylene polymer polypropylene, its physical properties are quite similar.

Evaluation: Based on the information that you have researched, in the space below evaluate
the use or potential use of the polymer produced related to its properties
Hint: to evaluate, you need to state its value - example: The polymer x is extremely useful/very
useful/not useful at all/not useful now but will be in the future. THEN you need to backup
your claim - example: It is useful for making plastic bags because it is strong and waterproof.

PHB is a highly potential resource for the future in medicine, skin grafts, surgical implants,
seam threads for wounds. however this can only be viable if the production processes are
improved with our technology. As of currently PHB is not a potential resource.