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Issue 03/2017

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From Science & Research

From Science & Research Bacteria produce polymers and intermediates Biotechnologically produced building blocks for chemistry and biodegradable plastics The aim of the project group “Resource-friendly Biotechnology in Bavaria – BayBiotech” is to contribute to resource-friendliness through application specific research projects in the field of biotechnology and to support the transition to a sustainable bio-economy. The project group was initiated by the Bavarian Ministry of the Environment and Consumer Protection (Munich, Germany). Recently scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), and the University of Bayreuth presented the results of their research in Erlangen (all Germany). “We want to build on our previous successes in environmental protection on the road to a sustainable bio-economy. The project group utilizes biotechnology to advance innovative and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes. With nature’s toolbox we could produce future products using plants and bacteria. Today’s wool sweater might be (part of) tomorrow’s car tire made of botanical materials. Our goal is a sustainable bioeconomy that combines ecology and economics through the responsible use of biological resources,” says Ulrike Scharf, the Bavarian Minister for the Environment and Consumer Protection, whose Ministry funds the project group with EUR 2 million. Bespoke biopolymers A key focus of the project lies on the biotechnological production of bespoke biopolymers made of polyhydroxybutyric acid (PHB) made by bacteria as a storage substance. PHB has properties comparable to propylene, which is produced from petroleum. The bacteria always combine the individual building blocks in the same manner. The material thus forms crystalline regions, making it brittle. In the context of the project, teams at the Chair of Chemistry of Biogenic Resources and the Professorship of Biogenic Polymers in Straubing, Germany demonstrated how mechanical properties of the biopolymer can be improved by adding other polymers, such as polylactides (PLA). Separating the production of individual building blocks and the polymerization opens the door to new processing options. Therefore the team led by Thomas Brück, Professor of Industrial Biocatalysis, has developed a resource-friendly production methodology of PHB monomers from bran, a cheap by-product of flour production. Mixing these monomers with others made from beta-butyrolactone, researchers at the TUM Chairs of Macromolecular Chemistry and Chemistry of Biogenic Resources introduces specific irregularities into the polymer, thereby custom-tailoring the material properties for given applications. The research also develops improved metallic and biogenic catalysts opening the butyrolactone ring. Biotechnological production of chemical intermediates Many biotechnological processes make use of spontaneously formed biofilms. However, these are often quite sensitive and therefore cannot be adapted to all desired reactions. That is why teams at the Chairs of Process Biotechnology and Macromolecular Chemistry II of the University of Bayreuth developed artificial biofilms in which microorganisms are embedded into a bespoke synthetic polymer matrix. This makes the bacteria significantly more robust and allows them to be exploited for a wide variety of cases. Acetic acid bacteria are already being deployed in the production of vitamin C. Since the bacterium must react to myriad environmental stimuli, it has a variety of enzymes on its exterior. Using newly developed biomolecular methodologies, the researchers at the Chair of Microbiology on the TUM Weihenstephan campus and the Institute of Biochemical Engineering in Garching, Germany succeeded in removing the unneeded enzymes. The energy of the bacteria is thus concentrated on the biotechnological production of the desired enzymes. This results in increased activity and inhibition of undesired secondary reactions. Compounds that behave in a mirror-like fashion to one another are important building blocks in the synthesis of pharmaceutical products. So-called enoate reductases can accumulate hydrogen at double bonds, thereby producing this property of chirality, as it is called. In this way, for example, carvon, a component of cumin oil, can be converted into the chiral dihydrocarvon. Using various protein engineering techniques, scientists at the TU Munich Institute of Biochemical Engineering have altered the enzyme to increase its activity more than fourfold. Synergy of group research “The successful work of this research group demonstrates the great benefit of interdisciplinary collaboration even if distributed over different locations,” says Thomas Brück, Professor of Industrial Biocatalysis at TU Munich. “Bringing together the three TUM locations Straubing, Weihenstephan and Garching, spans the arch from basic research to application development and greatly accelerates the path to actual implementation. 28 bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/17] Vol. 12

From Science & Research Buss Laboratory Kneader MX 30-22 ”Contributors from the Technical University of Munich were the Chair of Chemistry of Biogenic Resources and the Professorship of Biogenic Polymers in Straubing, the Chair of Microbiology in Weihenstephan and the Institute of Biochemical Engineering, the Wacker-Chair of Macromolecular Chemistry and the Professorship of Industrial Biocatalysis in Garching. Further members of the group were the Chairs of Process Biotechnology and Macromelecular Chemistry II at the University of Bayreuth and the Institute of Bioprocess Engineering at the University of Erlangen, which coordinates the project group funded by the Bavarian Ministry for the Environment and Consumer Protection. MT TUM Research Center for Industrial Biotechnology located at the Research Campus Garching – Photo: Andreas Battenberg / TUM Buss Kneader Technology Leading Compounding Technology for heat and shear sensitive plastics For more than 60 years Buss Kneader technology has been the benchmark for continuous preparation of heat and shear sensitive compounds – a respectable track record that predestines this technology for processing biopolymers such as PLA and PHA. Casing cover made from a blend of Polyhxdroxybutyric acid and polypropylen carbonate – Photo: Andreas Battenberg / TUM > Uniform and controlled shear mixing > Extremely low temperature profile > Precise temperature control > High filler loadings Buss AG Switzerland bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/17] Vol. 12 29

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