One of the most pressing environmental problems of our time is the mass production of plastic that does not degrade automatically and cannot be recycled in sufficient quantities, and that these materials break down into microscopic cells in the rotating biosphere. Science is constantly looking for microorganisms and enzymes that naturally break down plastics, and in the long run, any such discovery could be key to human survival.
University of Texas temper nature In its report published in the journal, PET delivers an enzyme capable of breaking down polyethylene terephthalate, otherwise known as PET, in weeks or, if appropriate, up to 24 hours instead of the usual years.
The FAST-Petase enzyme was produced by reformulating the natural PET-degrading beta-enzyme found in plastic-eating bacteria. It was modified in five points during the redesign, making it more active, stable and flexible (these characteristics are hidden in the acronym FAST: functional, active, stable and tolerant).
During the tests, 51 different containers and bottles of water were disassembled with FAST-Petase. The enzyme succeeded in decomposing objects thrown in front of it below 50°C. After the enzyme depolymerized the long molecular chains of the plastic, that is, transferred them to the constituent units, they were re-polymerized and converted back into plastic.
If we’re thinking about cleaning the environment, we need an enzyme that works at normal temperatures in the environment, and that’s what we have a huge advantage over.
Chemist Hal Alper, who said their discovery will give large companies the opportunity to recycle the plastics they use themselves.
PET is widely used for packaging soft drinks and other liquids, but this type of plastic accounts for only 12 percent of global production. Experts say the result is reassuring because the new enzyme is the same future, combining chemistry, artificial intelligence and synthetic biology. This has brought us closer to the day when new synthetic materials will eat up all sorts of plastic.
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