Title: Innovative and sustainable production of Biopolymers
Area: 4 – Sustainable Factory
Call topic: 4.1 – Technologies and Methodologies for Sustainable Factories
Coordinating Institute: ISTEC-CNR
- UNIBO – Dip. Chimica G. Ciamician, Ravenna Unit
Industrial Interest Group:
- Softer SPA (Forlì),
- Biosphere Srl (Cesena)
Abstract: The main objective of the PROBIOPOL project is the development of methodologies and tools to support the design and management of sustainable processes for the production of biodegradable polyhydroxyalcanoates (PHAs) biopolymers. PHAs are linear polyesters produced in nature by bacteria through aerobic fermentation of many carbon sources, completely biodegradable and biocompatible. PROBIOPOL project will develop a new, costeffective and environmental sustainable technology for isolating PHAs from bacteria mixed cultures by combining: a) innovative cells’ pre-treatments and polymer purification’s strategy by means of TiO2/UV or Ag0 nanostructured materials; b) polymer extraction through a green and safe system directly applicable to bacterial cultures, which combines the advantages of solvent extraction and these of dissolution of the non-PHAs cellular matrix through surfactants; c) monitoring and control tools for process energy and efficiency management.
Ideas and solutions:
The development of the system for isolating PHAs from bacteria mixed cultures will be carried out, combining:
- innovative cells’ pre-treatments and polymer purification’s strategy by means of TiO2/UV or Ag0 nano-phases supported on process compatible substrates;
- polymer extraction methodology through a green and safe system, combining the advantages of solvent extraction and these of dissolution of the non-PHAs cellular matrix through surfactants;
- automation tools for process energy and efficiency management.
PROBIOPOL outcomes can promote the fostering of an emerging sector for the Italian and European industry, such as bio-based and biodegradable plastics and more generally in key sectors such as clean and waste re-utilization technologies, matching some of the most urgently required areas of innovation and materials development. The replacement of fully fossil-based plastics by using biodegradable biopolymers from renewable resources have been envisaged as one of the key environmental technology and renewables.
The results of the project contributed to make the overall process more attractive for the companies and even transferable on an industrial level. The process optimization provided safe and cheap PHAs extraction without toxic and harmful chemicals, moreover the improvement performed on the monitoring and automation tools, represents a good starting point to lower investments and operating costs.
A fundamental advance in terms of knowledge and sustainability was acquired by the introduction of photo-catalysts and bio-active nanoparticles applied to a biological process. The use of such active nanostructures embedded in textiles substrates together with the development of automation tools for process energy and efficiency management allowed its reuse and also the recycling of the water phase after bio-synthesis as feeding for bacteria in the next batch instead to be treated, purified and wasted.