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Biodegradation of Polycarbonate: Fungal Decomposition Post Pre-treatment

SpecialChem / Sreeparna Das – Apr 12, 2010

The immense popularity and durability of polycarbonate (PC), which has resulted in its large-scale production, has led to increasing concerns about waste management and its safe disposal. In addition, bisphenol-A (BPA), a monomer of PC, has faced a lot of flak in recent times from environmental activists due to the associated health risk for humans on exposure to the chemical. All these factors have fuelled the need to have a "green" solution to overcome this problem. Scientists from the Department of Biotechnology of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras have recently reported an eco-friendly way of decomposing polycarbonate. On pre-treating PC with UV light and heat and further exposing it to given types of fungi, substantial decomposition was observed post 12 months with no release of BPA. PC films supplied by Sabic Innovative Plastics, being the starting material were subdivided into 3 sets for use in the experiment. One of the sets was left untreated and used as it is and for the other two sets, the PC films were subjected to two separate types of pre-treatments. Soil sample, collected from a plastic dumpsite, was treated and its suspension was used as the inoculum. To study the actual bio-degradation process, the scientists set up the following experiment on each sample: measuring the total biomass weight, quantifying carbohydrates and measure the total quantity of proteins. Other analysis were conducted on these camples to detect and reveal the overal polymer properties evolution with and without pre-treatments as a function of time. Surface morphology, weight losses, DSC, ATR-FTIR were ran on each sample to accurately measure the effect of microorganisms attack on polycarbonate.

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