Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dr. Christopher T. Nomura will speak on "Polyhydroxyalkanoates production and potential applications"

Dr. Christopher T. Nomura from the Department of Chemistry, SUNY-ESF will be speaking at the Chemistry Professional Development seminar on Tuesday, February 2nd (4:30pm, Mendel Science Center 101). All are invited to attend! Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are microbially produced biodegradable polyesters with a wide variety of applications and ecological benefits compared to non-biodegradable, petroleum-based plastics. Despite the ecological benefits associated with PHAs, their production costs are significantly higher than petroleum-based plastics. Our lab takes a multi-disciplinary approach utilizing microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and polymer chemistry, in order to develop systems and methodologies to make these biodegradable polymers more cost-competitive with petroleum-based polymers. Although a variety of PHAs have been made in recombinant and native microorganisms, a major obstacle to their widespread use has been the expense of their production. One way to reduce costs is to lower the cost of the feedstock for their production. Current increases in petroleum-based fuel prices have led to a surge of interest in the production of biofuels such as biodiesel. The byproduct of the transesterification of triglycerides to produce biodiesel is glycerol. Although glycerol has several applications, the current market is saturated, thus, finding new uses for glycerol produced with biodiesel will be of the utmost importance. In this study we evaluated the ability to transform low-value glycerol from biodiesel production into a value-added, biodegradable polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) polymer using various bacterial strains. Use of low-value glycerol as a carbon feedstock to be transformed to biodegradable plastics could lower the price of both PHA and biodiesel production and create a new marketplace for the anticipated excess waste glycerol from biodiesel production. In addition, the use of PHAs as hydrophobic compound capture devices is currently being explored with potential applications in bioremediation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

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