Duraj-Thatte, A.M., Manjula-Basavanna, A., Courchesne, NM.D. et al. (2021). “Water-processable, biodegradable and coatable aquaplastic from engineered biofilms.” Nature Chemical Biology 17, 732–738 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41589-021-00773-y
Abstract: Petrochemical-based plastics have not only contaminated all parts of the globe, but are also causing potentially irreversible damage to our ecosystem because of their non-biodegradability. As bioplastics are limited in number, there is an urgent need to design and develop more biodegradable alternatives to mitigate the plastic menace. In this regard, we report aquaplastic, a new class of microbial biofilm-based biodegradable bioplastic that is water-processable, robust, templatable and coatable. Here, Escherichia coli was genetically engineered to produce protein-based hydrogels, which are cast and dried under ambient conditions to produce aquaplastic, which can withstand strong acid/base and organic solvents. In addition, aquaplastic can be healed and welded to form three-dimensional architectures using water. The combination of straightforward microbial fabrication, water processability and biodegradability makes aquaplastic a unique material worthy of further exploration for packaging and coating applications.