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American scientists develop plant that can grow polymers.

SCIENTISTS from America's University of Missouri have developed a way of actually growing plastics derived from plants.

Although plant-based plastics are not new (for instance--soy-oil based plastics have long been available), actually growing polymers able to be processed directly into plastics is a groundbreaking development.

Researchers used modern molecular techniques to introduce specific bacteria into an Arabidopsis thaliana plant, creating a chemical reaction that made the plant produce an organic polymer called polyhdroxybutyrate-co-polyhydroxyvalerate, or PHBV.

The university has found that by combining this with another type of plant-grown polymer (using a switchgrass) developed by Massachusetts-based Metabolix, a plastic sufficiently flexible and moldable to make goods such as shopping bags and disposable razors can be made.

Although far from allowing plastics to be plucked like fruit, manufacturing a plastic in this way is carbon neutral as it does not involve fossil fuels and the plants absorb CO2. When discarded, the plastic biodegrades.
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Author:Dobie, Monica
Publication:International News
Date:Feb 1, 2009
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