Nowadays, most plastics are oil-based, an alternative could be the usage of biomass as a source for (bio)plastics.
Degradation of cellulose-containing biomass results in several products, one of the products is 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). HMF has potential to become a promising biobased chemical1, which can be converted to other furan based building blocks (figure 1). These furan based building blocks are a basis for several new bioplastics.
The aim of the project is to make an enzymatic catalysed synthesis route from biomass derived HMF to furan based building blocks and associated polyesters (bioplastics).
The approach to synthesize these bioplastics is split into two separate parts. The first project part is to synthesize monomers suitable for polyesterification. To make the aldehyde group of HMF suitable for enzymatic polymerization, a reduction or oxidation reaction is necessary. Dehydrogenases are enzymes capable in these reactions.
After the synthesis of monomers the second project part is focussing on the polymerization. The start will be a screening of possible esterases and lipases that have affinity for furan based monomers. After an optimization step the formed oligomers are analysed with MALDI-TOF-MS, GPC, TGA and DSC to analyse the polyester characteristics.
Within this project there are possibilities for doing a BSc or MSc thesis. The thesis can be focusing on the monomer and/or the poly-esterification part. When you are interested in this industrial biotechnology project, which has the focus on applying enzymes for industrial applications, feel free to contact me.
This research forms part of the research programme of the Dutch Polymer Institute (DPI), project #740.
1. J. J. Bozell and G. R. Petersen, Green Chem, 2010, 12, 539-554.