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Pilot Production of Degradable Bioplastics


Scale-up of Technology and Establishment of Pilot Production of Degradable Bioplastics (Hydroxybutyrate-Hydroxyvalerate Copolymers) and Objects for Medical Applications

Tech Area / Field

  • BIO-IND/Industrial Biotechnology/Biotechnology
  • CHE-POL/Polymer Chemistry/Chemistry

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Zalouzhny A A

Leading Institute
JSC Biochimmash, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • Institute of Biophysics, Russia, Krasnoyarsk reg., Krasnoyarsk

Project summary

At present, there is a strong tendency in the manufacture of polymers towards production of new, environmentally friendly polymer materials and composites possessing a wide spectrum of useful properties. In recent years the research has focused on the production of materials that would not accumulate in the environment, but would decompose in natural biological processes, i.e. fit into the biospheric cycling. Therefore, the work related to biopolymers (polymers of biological origin) has assumed great importance.

The most serious interest has been aroused recently by a new class of biopolymers – polymers of hydroxy fatty acids. These so-called polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), which are synthesized by procaryotes under specific growth conditions, are being investigated in detail. PHA are the most promising biopolymers: they are not only thermoplastic, like polypropylene and polyethylene (Table 1), but they also have antioxidant and optical properties as well as a piezoelectric effect, but their most important property is that they decompose in the environment and are biocompatible. This makes them promising materials for medicine (surgical and disposable materials), pharmacology (prolongation of the action of drugs), food industry (packaging and antioxidant materials), agriculture (encapsulation of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides; degradable films, containers for hothouse facilities).

Some physicochemical properties of polyhydroxyalkanoates are similar to the properties of synthetic polyesters (polypropylene and polyethylene), which do not decompose in the natural environment and which are widely used and produced in great amounts. Polyhydroxyalkanoates are not only thermoplastic, but they also have optical activity, antioxidant properties as well as a piezoelectric effect, but their most important property is that they are biodegradable and biocompatible. Polyhydroxyalkanoates of various composition differ in their structure and properties (flexibility, crystallinity, melting point, etc.).

Biodegradability and biocompatibility of PHA make them highly promising for pharmacology and medicine. At present there are very few polymer materials used in medicine that do not cause pathological changes in the organism when implanted, are not toxic when contact cells of the organ, and generate little immune response. A particular challenge is presented by the necessity of introducing polymer materials that are not only biocompatible but also degradable in vivo.

By now hydrogen-oxidizing microorganisms (hydrogen bacteria and carboxydobacteria) have been studied comprehensively. Unique bulk of information has been obtained on physiology and biotechnology of these chemolithotrophic microorganisms. Comprehensive investigations have been conducted to study the continuous, parametrically controlled culture of hydrogen bacteria Alcaligenes eutrophus, and it was proposed as a potential bioregenerative component of a closed human life-support system for air and water regeneration. The laboratory regulations have been worked out to be followed in production of degradable thermoplastic biopolymer – polyhydroxybutyrate on the basis of hydrogen.

The goal of the project is to scale up the developed laboratory technology, to establish the pilot production, to produce pilot lots of polymers and objects for medical applications (sutures, films, carriers of medicines), to obtain the starting data for the future commercial production.

The tasks to be fulfilled in the course of project realization are: to work out Technological Regulations and Technical Specifications of the product (polyhydroxybutyrate-hydroxyvalerate copolymer) on the basis of biosynthesis of hydrogen bacteria Alcaligenes eutrophus; to produce pilot lots of polymers and objects for medical applications; and to conduct biomedical tests.

The functioning of the pilot production must yield the scientific foundations and starting data for the new industrial biotechnology of producing polymers of a new generation and of high market potential on the basis of inexhaustible and available resources of the Siberian region. In the future this will make possible not only specialized applications in medicine, radioelectronics, etc, but also replacement of traditional non-degradable polyolefines by polymers of a new generation that can be involved in global biospheric cycles.

The new technology will allow production of environmentally friendly polymer materials degradable in the natural environment to end products (water and carbon dioxide) as a substitute for non-degradable polyolefines that accumulate in the environment (polypropylene, polyethylene), which are produced from oil in environmentally harmful processes.

The team of the authors of the proposed project has expertise and large experience in developing technological processes of microbiological products and in using the methods of control.

The following cooperation with the foreign collaborators is planned: regular information exchange in the course of project realization; comments of foreign collaborators to annual and final reports; joint use of text materials and samples. Results obtained in the course of work will be periodically estimated in laboratories of foreign collaborators. Scientific seminars and workshops on the subjects of the project are to be held.

The projects objectives are:

1. To optimize laboratory technology of producing polymers of a new generation on the basis of the hydrogen bacteria Alcaligenes eutrophus.

2. To conduct analytical investigations of the produced biopolymers using modern methods (physicochemical, technological, biomedical).
3. To design technological, equipment, assembly schemes; to prepare the comments and specifications for devices; and to prepare specifications for unconventional equipment.
4. To collect equipment, to produce the unconventional devices.
5. To perform binding and assembly of the production line at the Institute of Biophysics SB RAS.
6. To conduct hydraulic tests, launching and adjustment.
7. To start operation of pilot production line to manufacture degradable biopolymers (polyhydroxybutyrate-hydroxyvalerate copolymers).
8. To produce pilot lots and objects for medical applications, to conduct tests.


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