Scientists create an enzyme capable of breaking down plastic material in a week

cientificos crean una enzima capaz de descomponer el material de plastico en una semana.jpg
cientificos crean una enzima capaz de descomponer el material de plastico en una semana.jpg

Plastic is one of the most used materials in the manufacture of products. However, its main disadvantage is that it has an extremely slow decomposition process, which is harmful to the environment when disposed of improperly.

In that sense, plastic can take a while to between 100 and 1000 years to completely degrade depending on the components with which it has been integrated.

However, it is likely that this process could be significantly accelerated thanks to the work carried out by a team of scientists, who resorted to machine learning to achieve this goal.

Through an article published in the journal Nature, it was learned that a research group from the University of Texas carried out the modification of an enzyme to make it acquire the ability to destroy the individual components of PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which is a type of plastic that is part of the 12% of global waste.

Such was the level of effectiveness of this enzyme that it reduced the degradation time of this plastic to one week; all this within a process known as depolymerization in which the decomposed monomers can then be transformed into PET plastic.

Thanks to the action of this enzyme, the recycling of large amounts of plastic waste looks promising, although for this it is necessary to develop a strategy that allows expand the scope of this technological advance and take advantage of its potential at an industrial level.

Regarding the capabilities of this process, the professor of chemical engineering and author of the article, Vince Hal Alper he pointed:

It has advantages over traditional recycling […] If plastic were melted down and then re-molded, the integrity of the plastic would begin to lose with every turn of recycling.

Likewise, Halper expressed that since 2005 the existence of enzymes capable of breaking down plastic has been known, although their action is only effective in certain situations.

In the case of this enzyme, Alper assures that it can work under different temperatures and pH levels. The researchers plan to test the enzyme on different PET-type plastics and from there find a way to massify its implementation.

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Brian Adam
Professional Blogger, V logger, traveler and explorer of new horizons.