Enzymic polymerisation, characterisation and market evaluation of a set of novel bioplastic co-polymers derived from renewable resources

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Plastics are produced on an enormous scale, both within the UK and globally, and are used in functional products all around us. The vast majority of plastics are currently produced from no-renewable depleting fossil resources, predominately crude oil. There has been recent widespread research into the conversion of sustainable and renewable biomass to monomers and polymers, ideally looking to utilise the most abundant form of waste biomass, lignocellulose. Biome's (company lead) overall strategy is to produce novel highly functional polyesters from this lignocellulose by using industrial biotechnology. This project with the Universities of York and Liverpool will take lignocellulose-derived aromatic diacids (monomers) and utilise enzymes in a multi-step polymerisation to produce a targeted group of novel copolymers and explore their properties. The project will also determine whether this biocatalysis can be undertaken in-situ of the diacid production and will provide quantities of bio-derived plastics to be assessed for their potential in high value markets, and will also demonstrate the capability of the bio-catalytic reactions to be scaled to >1 kg. Previous work (supported by Innovate UK) has already demonstrated that the aromatic diacids can be produced from both lignin and cellulose using both engineered bacteria/enzymes and a scale-up for diacid formation is already underway. These diacids have already been used to make the first small quantities of novel polyester copolymers (with exciting preliminary properties), prompting this project application. This project will additionally contribute to the development of these novel bio-derived polymers through the assessment of induced chain-branching, thus altering their physical properties and eventual application. It will also undertake initial investigations into the end-of-life options for these polymers, including breaking them back down to monomer units, ensuring that after product use their environmental footprint will be minimised.

Technical Summary

Plastics are produced on an enormous scale, both within and the UK and globally. Currently, the vast majority of plastics produced are derived from no-renewable depleting fossil resources, predominately crude oil. There has been recent widespread research into the conversion of biomass to monomers and polymers, ideally looking to utilise the most abundant form of waste biomass, lignocellulose. There has also been a growing interest in the use of bio-catalytic processes to bring about molecular transformation that have traditionally been carried out solely via chemo-catalytic routes. This project brings together both these aspects of work as it will demonstrate how bio-catalysis can be applied in the synthesis of novel polyesters from bio-derived feedstocks. It will use several diacids that Biome can now produce from lignocellulose, and will use expertise in the Universities of York and Liverpool to utilise enzymes in a multi-step lipase-catalysed polymerisation to produce a targeted group of novel copolymers and explore their properties. The project will also determine whether this biocatalysis can be undertaken in-situ of the diacid production and will provide quantities of bio-derived plastics to be assessed for their potential in high value markets, and will also demonstrate the capability of the bio-catalytic reactions to be scaled to >1 kg. This project will additionally contribute to the development of these novel bio-derived polymers through the assessment of induced chain-branching, thus altering their physical properties and eventual application. It will also undertake initial investigations into the end-of-life options for these polymers, including breaking them back down to monomer units, ensuring that after product use their environmental footprint will be minimised.

Planned Impact

As described in proposal submitted to IUK
 
Description Erwin Schroedinger Fellowship
Amount € 160,210 (EUR)
Funding ID J 4014-N34 
Organisation Austrian Science Fund (FWF) 
Sector Academic/University
Country Austria
Start 10/2017 
End 09/2020
 
Description New Bio-based Monomers from Platform Molecules 
Organisation University of California, Davis
Department Department of Chemistry
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We received samples of new bio-derived monomers and used them in the synthesis of novel bio-derived polymers. The polymers where extensively analysed and their physical properties determined. The study is ongoing as other new monomers are produced and applied to polymerisations.
Collaborator Contribution Prof. Mark Mascal (UC Davis) has developed routes to a range of novel monomers from bio-derived platform molecules, and as part of this collaboration sent samples of the new monomers to the University of York for testing to polymerisations. Prof. Mascal has also assisted in the preparation of research articles following this study.
Impact Research article: ChemSusChem, 2017, 10,166 -170
Start Year 2015