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What if plastic wasn't made from oil or natural gas? What if it was made from bacteria? Would it be safer for the environment? Would it be safer for us? What if the bacteria were genetically engineered Escherichia coli (E. coli)?
Recently Scientists at Genomatica Inc., a company in San Diego that focuses on developing sustainable chemicals, announced that they have developed strains of bacteria that can be used to make plastic. The strains of bacteria used are E. coli. The strains of bacteria are manipulated to produce butanediol (BDO).Butanediol is used to make a variety of plastics, rubber and fiber products and it is usually produced with oil or natural gas.
Unfortunately, the production of BDO through oil or natural gas has become expensive, is not energy efficient or environmentally friendly.By developing this new method of producing BDO with genetically engineered E. coli scientist hope to reduce cost and make BDO production more energy efficient. Considering the rising cost in oil and natural gas and our need to be more environmentally friendly this innovation couldn't have come at a better time.
To produce BDO via E. eoli, E. coli is grown in fermentation tanks in sugar and water. Under normal circumstances BDO is noted to be toxic to E. Coli, but because E. Coli has been engineered it can now tolerate high doses of BDO. Once the BDO is produced it is purified and separated out of the water. This is then used to make plastic.
A pilot plant for this invention is expected to go up and start running next year. If you would like to learn more about this innovation visit the Genomatica website and read their press releases .