|A method for producing a strong, highly ductile bioplastic using yeast and fatty acids of plant oils has been developed by a team of researchers at Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly). The researchers engineered C. tropicalis to transform fatty acids into omega-hydroxyfatty acids, a monomer that when polymerized provides a variety of options for developing new bio-based plastics with attractive physical properties. Usually, these acids are difficult and expensive to prepare using traditional methods. The key to getting the yeast to produce large amounts of omega-hydroxyfatty acids was eliminating certain enzymes that further oxidize these acids into unwanted diacids. The researchers identified and eliminated 16 genes and other oxidation pathways, which resulted in a 90% reduction in the activity that converts omega-hydroxyfatty acids to diacids. This new engineered strain of C. tropicalis provides a foundation for the development of low-cost methods of producing omega-hydroxyfatty acids for conversion into plastics. Plastics produced by this method could have a variety of uses, as previous research has shown that plastics produced from a very similar omega-hydroxyfatty acid are strong, ductile materials. The plastics could have applications in lubricants, adhesives, cosmetics and anti-cancer therapies, and could also be recycled through a conversion process that results in a biofuel similar to biodiesels such as Soy Gold. In the future, the researchers plan to investigate ways to further modify the strain to allow for more direct conversion of various triglyceride feedstocks and introduce new pathways to increase the efficiency of omega-hydroxyfatty acid production. The team is currently up-scaling the fermentation, preparing polymers from omega-hydroxyfatty acids and determining what unique properties these new biomaterials bring to currently available plastics. The team is sampling large chemical companies that are polyester producers so that they can assess the commercial potential of the bioplastics. These activities are being conducted by SyntheZyme, a company started in 2008 to commercialize new innovations developed. The company is currently seeking commercial partners to help enable future development and scale up work for microbial production of the monomer as well as the corresponding bioplastic materials. When polymerized, the new material may be a suitable substitute for petroleum derived plastics such as polyethylene for uses such as disposable gloves, multilayer food packaging films, and films for ice, trash, garments, produce bags and more. The versatile, 100% biodegradable plastic is highly resistant to moisture, which is an important improvement over currently sold bioplastics such as polylactic acid and starch-based plastics.
NEC Corporation has developed a first-of-its-kind durable new biomass-based plastic (bioplastic) that is produced from non-edible plant resources. The bioplastic is created by bonding cellulose- a main component of plant stems, with cardanol, a primary component of cashew nut shells, which achieves a level of durability that is suitable for electronic equipment and boasts a high plant composition ratio of more than 70%. The new bioplastic characteristics are as follows.
� Composed of non-edible plant resources: As an alternative to petroleum-based components, cellulose is the plastic's major ingredient. The cellulose, which is produced in large amounts by plants, including grass stems, etc., is modified by cardanol, an oil-like material that is extracted from cashew nut shells. Most of these stems and nut shells are abundant resources, which are often discarded byproducts of the agricultural process.
� High plant component ratio: The use of cellulose and cardanol, both plant resources, as the plastic's primary components produces a plastic that features a high plant component ratio of more than 70%. Current cellulose based plastics include large amounts of petroleum-based additives, which results in a low plant component ratio.
� High durability well suited for electronics: After enhancing its reactivity, cardanol is chemically bonded with cellulose, which produces a durable thermo-plastic that is strong, heat resistant, water resistant and non-crystalline (short molding time), due to the bonded cardanol's unique molecular structure consisting of flexible and rigid parts.
Advantages of the new material include:
� Durability (strength & malleability): Twice the strength of existing PLA. Comparable to conventional CA resin
� Heat resistance (glass transition temperature): More than twice the resistance of PLA, approximately 1.3 times more than CA resin
� Water resistance: Comparable to PLA, approximately 3 times more than CA resin
� Molding time: Less than 50% of PLA, comparable to conventional cellulose-based and petroleum-based plastics