Chapter

Biodegradation of polymeric systems

In-Joo Chin and Shogo Uematsu

in Nanocomposites with Biodegradable Polymers

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199581924
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728853 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199581924.003.0002

Series: Monographs on the Physics and Chemistry of Materials

Biodegradation of polymeric systems

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Biodegradation can be defined as a process in which the degradation results from the action of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, or algae. Biodegradable polymers may be broken down by the enzymes of microorganisms, and the polymer substrate is used as the carbon source for the microorganism metabolism. Biodegradation of polymers produces CO2 under aerobic environments or CH4 under the anaerobic environments, in addition to humus. According to the SPI Bioplastics Council, a biodegradable plastic is a plastic that undergoes biodegradation as per accepted industry standards such as ASTM D6400, EN 13432, etc. A variety of biodegradable polymers have been commercialized. According to their origin, biodegradable polymers are classified into three major categories: (1) synthetic polymers, particularly aliphatic polyesters, such as poly(lactic acid) (PLA), poly(butylene succinate) (PBS), poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL), and poly(p-dioxanone) (PPDO); (2) polyesters produced by microorganisms, which are various types of poly(hybroxyalkanoate)s, including poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (P3HB) and poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV); and (3) polymers originating from natural sources, including starch, cellulose, chitosan, chitin, lignin, and proteins. As there has been an increasing demand in reducing the carbon footprint, much effort is being made to utilize renewable resources in producing raw materials for the chemical industry. Biomass-based plastics represent an important example. It should be noted that not all biobased polymers are biodegradable. Plastics that have biobased content and/or biodegradable plastics are called bioplastics.

Keywords: biodegradation; microorganisms; enzymes; metabolism; anaerobic

Chapter.  12012 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Condensed Matter Physics

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