Gallery: Scientists Develop Plastic-Producing Bacteria


Scientists at Genomatica Inc. recently announced that they have developed strains of bacteria that are able to produce plastic without the use of oil or natural gas. The sustainable process utilizes little more than sugar and water to produce butanediol (BDO), which can be manufactured into everything from plastics and fibers to pharmaceuticals. Genomatica estimates that within a year the energy-efficient process will cost less than current hydrocarbon-based processes – a revolutionary development since close to 3 billion pounds of BDO manufactured each year.

Currently BDO is made exclusively with oil and natural gas, and its production is very energy-intensive. Utilizing sugar and E. Coli to create the chemical allows the production process to be conducted under normal pressure and temperatures, which drastically cuts it energy use: “By using advanced computational modeling and evolution‐based methods to rapidly engineer living organisms, Genomatica can produce valuable chemicals from renewable feedstocks at low cost.”

The bacteria-grown plastic can be produced in large fermentation tanks in a manner similar the way that algae is being used to produce biofuels, and the company plans on using sugars that are non-competitive with the food industry to steer clear of some of the conflicts that have been brought up with ethanol-based fuels.

+ Genomatica

Via Scientific American


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  1. asamir1986 June 12, 2011 at 8:20 am

    I found that an amazing thing , i have also a strain of microorganism can produce a chemical substance resemble the plastic and gave a high amount of that .

  2. Miz Bhaven November 20, 2009 at 7:22 am

    Uh…hello…isn’t PLASTIC itself the problem??? It’s filling up our landfills and creating a floating plastic garbage island in the Pacific ocean! We don’t need more plastic containers…we need quickly decomposing biodegradable containers for EVERYTHING!!!

  3. Gang green September 24, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Unfortunately, I expect this does not imply that the resulting plastic is biodegradable . . . as with bacteria that produce PHA-based plastic (which is more expensive).

  4. pinkrobe September 22, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    They should further engineer the E. coli to allow hamburgers to produce their own wrappers.

  5. sylrayj September 22, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    I am amused thinking of bacteria making their own petri plates… :)

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