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Team Led by Indian-Origin Scientist Converts Plant Matter Into Chemicals

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A team led by an Indian-origin scientist from Sandia National Laboratories in California has demonstrated a new technology based on bio-engineered bacteria that can make it economically feasible to produce chemicals from renewable plant sources.
Lignin, a tough plant matter, is converted into chemicals. Pixabay

A team led by an Indian-origin scientist from Sandia National Laboratories in California has demonstrated a new technology based on bio-engineered bacteria that can make it economically feasible to produce chemicals from renewable plant sources.

The technology converts tough plant matter, called lignin, for wider use of the energy source and making it cost competitive.

“For years, we have been researching cost-effective ways to break down lignin and convert it into valuable platform chemicals,” Sandia bioengineer Seema Singh said.

“We applied our understanding of natural lignin degraders to E. coli because that bacterium grows fast and can survive harsh industrial processes,” she added in the work published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America”.

Lignin is the component of plant cell walls that gives them their incredible strength. It is brimming with energy but getting to that energy is so costly and complex that the resulting biofuel can’t compete economically with other forms of transportation energy.

A team led by an Indian-origin scientist from Sandia National Laboratories in California has demonstrated a new technology based on bio-engineered bacteria that can make it economically feasible to produce chemicals from renewable plant sources.
Scientists successfully convert plant matter into chemicals. Pixabay

Once broken down, lignin has other gifts to give in the form of valuable platform chemicals that can be converted into nylon, plastics, pharmaceuticals and other valuable products.

Singh and her team have solved three problems with turning lignin into platform chemicals: cost, toxicity and speed.

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Engineering solutions like these, which overcome toxicity and efficiency issues have the potential to make biofuel production economically viable.

“Now we can work on producing greater quantities of platform chemicals, engineering pathways to new end products, and considering microbial hosts other than E. coli,” Singh (IANS)

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Hazardous Chemicals Detected in Plastics Threaten Seabirds

Our previous researches showed that these additives in plastics are transferred from ingested plastics and unfortunately accumulated

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Chemicals, Plastics, Seabirds
"We uncovered that four kinds of UV stabilisers and two brominated flame retardants at detection frequencies of 4.6 per cent and 2.1 per cent, respectively," said Hideshige Takada, Professor at Tokyo University. Pixabay

Researchers found that hazardous chemicals were detected in plastics eaten by seabirds.

“We uncovered that four kinds of UV stabilisers and two brominated flame retardants at detection frequencies of 4.6 per cent and 2.1 per cent, respectively,” said Hideshige Takada, Professor at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology.

“Our previous researches showed that these additives in plastics are transferred from ingested plastics and unfortunately accumulated in some tissues of seabirds,” Takada added.

For the study, published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, the researchers carried out non-target survey of additives in 194 pieces of plastics ingested by seabirds, such as Northern Fulmar and Albatross.

Chemicals, Plastics, Seabirds
Researchers found that hazardous chemicals were detected in plastics eaten by seabirds. Pixabay

These additives, which are often hazardous chemicals, are generally blended into most plastics in order to make plastics better, for instance to stabilise polymers against UV degradation or oxidation, to simply add colours and so on.

The findings imply that any of these additives can be detected in the tissue of seabirds which ingest 15 pieces of plastics with probability of 73 per cent.

The study found that ingestion of 15 pieces of plastics per one individual is actually happening in the real-world case of the Albatross.

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“We could foresee in the near future that 90 per cent of the individuals would accumulate additives derived from ingested plastics if the number would increase double, that is 30 pieces per individual,” Takada added. (IANS)