Bioplastic Research Group
Bioplastic research group’s main interest is about
“Bioconversion of Organic Wastes into Bioacids and Bioplastics”.
At present, we are focused on three types of organic waste residue;
- Palm oil mill effluent (POME)
- Kitchen waste
- Oil palm frond juice
Incorporation of PHA production with methane production from palm oil mill effluent treatment for power generation in Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is promising in near future whereas total PHA production cost might reduce to half. This strategy could promote widely use of PHAs and better market for PHAs.
The target applications for the PHAs produced are low end-material products like packaging (food container, film/sheet in plantation) or high end-value products like suture and artificial heart valve. The application of PHA in near future could be expanded by choosing various types of microorganism and utilizing other sustainable renewable carbon sources that produces different types of polyesters with properties ranging from brittle and stiff to elastomeric rubber-like materials.
1. Upstream Processing
In this part, the research covers on physical,
chemical and biological
treatment of those wastes into bioacids
In the strain improvement, the research about genetically engineering techniques of locally isolated bacterium named Comamonas sp. EB172. This research was to improve the recombinant bacteria in producing more acceptable quality polyesters than wild type bacteria.
Degradation pathway of the intracellular accumulated PHA during the fermentation.
2. Bioprocessing / Fermentation
This part involved the production of polyesters such as poly (3-hydroxybutyrate) P (3HB) homopolymers and poly (3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) copolymers by Comamonas sp. EB172 in lab scale fermentation (shake flask, 2 and 6L fermenters). In this fermentation, bio-acids produced from POME, kitchen wastes and oil palm sap trunks and frond used as substrate for polymers accumulation.
3. Downstream Processing
This part of research involved in development of free-solvent extraction methods (e.g. water extraction, sodium hydroxide extraction) which provide environmentally friendly PHA extraction and purification process.
4. Chemical Recycling of PHA
Sustainable polymer production should not only take into account the method used in producing polymer materials, but also the carbon cycle of the polymer. Even though PHA is biodegradable, it takes several months to completely biodegraded. This is where chemical recycling becomes important. Chemical recycling of PHA is a process to convert PHA into monomers or low-molecular weight polymers which can be used to produce new products. This involves depolymerization of PHA by pyrolysis and hydrolysis.