- Number 326 |
- December 6, 2010
Plastics from plants
Plants could be the ultimate “green” factories, engineered to pump out the kinds of raw materials we now obtain from petroleum-based chemicals. But getting plants to accumulate high levels of desired products has been an elusive goal. Now, in a first step toward achieving industrial-scale green production, scientists from DOE's Brookhaven Laband Dow AgroSciences report engineering a new metabolic pathway into a plant to produce industrially relevant levels of a particular fatty acid that could potentially be used to make plastics such as polyethylene.
“Our new way of providing a feedstock sourced from fatty acids in plant seeds would be renewable and sustainable indefinitely,” said Brookhaven biochemist John Shanklin. “Additional technology to efficiently convert the plant fatty acids into chemical building blocks is needed, but our research shows that high levels of the appropriate feedstock can be made in plants.”The BNL scientists' general approach — identifying and expressing natural or synthetic enzymes, quantifying incremental improvements resulting from additional genetic/metabolic modifications, and “stacking” of traits — may also be fruitful for improving production of a wide range of other unusual fatty acids in plant seeds.
Submitted by DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory