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Friday, February 5, 2016

Good morning,

Vegetable oil is a great and largely unexploited resource in the alternative energy industry. I'm not talking about ethanol, which is largely made from corn, I'm talking about cooking oil, which is largely used to make french fries and chicken wings.

It is used on the fringe as a fuel, but the diversity of uses for waste cooking oil are only beginning to be revealed. Billions of gallons of this suff are literally being thrown away every year. What could we be doing with it (other than running trucks on it)?

Waste cooking oil makes bioplastics cheaper.

Please scroll down for more.

Thanks for reading,

Your Living Green editor

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"Bioplastics" that are naturally synthesized by microbes could be made commercially viable by using waste cooking oil as a starting material. This would reduce environmental contamination and also give high-quality plastics suitable for medical implants, according to scientists presenting their work at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn Conference at the University of Warwick.

The Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) family of polyesters is synthesized by a wide variety of bacteria as an energy source when their carbon supply is plentiful. Poly 3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) is the most commonly produced polymer in the PHA family. Currently, growing bacteria in large fermenters to produce high quantities of this bioplastic is expensive because glucose is used as a starting material.

Work by a research team at the University of Wolverhampton suggests that using waste cooking oil as a starting material reduces production costs of the plastic. "Our bioplastic-producing bacterium, Ralstonia eutropha H16, grew much better in oil over 48 hours and consequently produced three times more PHB than when it was grown in glucose," explained Victor Irorere who carried out the research. "Electrospinning experiments, performed in collaboration with researchers from the University of Birmingham, showed that nanofibres of the plastic produced from oils were also less crystalline, which means the plastic is more suited to medical applications."

Previous research has shown that PHB is an attractive polymer for use as a microcapsule for effective drug delivery in cancer therapy and also as medical implants, due to its biodegradability and non-toxic properties. Improved quality of PHB combined with low production costs would enable it to be used more widely.

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