Polytechnic University researcher makes bioplastics that turn into biodiesel

A professor at Polytechnic University, Dr. Richard Gross, has developed a fuel-latent bioplastic, that is, a plastic made from vegetable oils where the fuel capability remains "hidden" until the plastic is converted into biodiesel. His prize: a $2.34 million award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Dr. Gross is director of Polytechnic University's National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing of Macromolecules (CBBM). The next step, unsurprisingly, is to find a way to make the process cheaper.

Working with DNA 2.0, a biotechnology company specializing in gene synthesis, Dr. Gross helped develop the enzymes that both synthesize and break down the biolastic into biodiesel. Dr. Gross says his bioplastic is "tougher and more durable than typical polyethylenes," and that, "the bioplastic can be placed in a simple container where it is safely broken down to liquid fuel."

Why does the U.S. military care? It's not like they're the armed wing of the EPA or anything. Instead, having a biodiesel source from trash would be a huge benefit while engaged in combat. As Khine Latt, program manager for DARPA's Mobile Integrated Sustainable Energy Recovery program, says in the press release, "Military units generate substantial quantities of packaging waste when engaging in stationary field operations. If we can turn this waste into fuel, we will see a double benefit - we will reduce the amount of waste that we have to remove, and we will reduce the amount of new fuel that we must deliver to the units."

Man, if this works as advertised, we'll be one step closer to a Mr. Fusion-type biodiesel maker. And that's cool any time.

[Source: Polytechnic University]

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