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Cyanobacteria Bioplastic

October 26, 2017

At Michigan State University Taylor Weiss, a former post-doc in the Ducat lab, along with his associates, have published a study in the journal Metabolic Engineering proposing a new production method for bioplastic — powered by sunlight and cyanobacteria — that could significantly cut costs.

They started out with a cyanobacterial strain that naturally produces sugar. Then they tweaked them to constantly leak the sugar into a surrounding salt water medium. Next, they paired the cyanobacteria with natural bacteria that make bioplastic. The bacteria fed on the leaked sugar, and over five months of testing, the pairing turned out prolific and robust:

  • Processed biomass contained a near constant 30% bioplastic content, “four times more than the best cyanobacteria working alone.”
  • Production rates were over twenty times faster.
  • The system is also relatively inexpensive to maintain.

Says Dr. Weiss, “We’ve laid the foundation for a ‘plug-and-play’ system where a cyanobacteria can be gradually upgraded to produce more sugar. We eventually want to pair it with diverse specialist bacteria to create many cheaper, green bioproducts like fuels, fragrances, dyes, and medicines.”

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