Spectroscopic characterization and optimization of plastic biodegradation.
In Activity 3 we apply microfluidics and spectroscopic techniques to monitor and characterize plastic degradation in real-time to optimize the process for post-consumer plastic depolymerization. Using the outputs of Activities 1 and 2, we hope to optimize microbial community composition and identify ideal enzyme combinations, and evaluate pre-treatment approaches, including those that insert oxygen groups in the carbon backbone, which may better mimic the natural environment of these (often secreted) enzymes. As our work progresses, we will further test the performance of new enzymes in moist-solid reaction mixtures, and track microplastic generation during depolymerization. These biocatalysts will form the conversion “kernel” for process technologies incorporating pre/post-processing to provide cost-competitive recovery of chemicals from plastic waste. This work will be divided into 5 distinct projects, more information coming soon.