I spend a lot of time on this blog illustrating and promoting the benefits of the things we can’t see, however, we can’t live without and finding new ways they can help us out. To focus on bacteria along for now, they are beneficial overwhelmingly more than they are hazardous. Lots of research is going into utilizing them in new arenas from ethanol to diesel and jet fuels.
Helping solve the forthcoming energy/climate crisis is not the only area these guys can help. Lots of bacteria, under certain environmental conditions, can and will produce huge internal polymers as carbon stores, especially when nitrogen supplies are limited. Think of this polymer like starch in plants and glycogen in mammals. Research is still ongoing into the mechanisms that regulate polymer synthesis and degradation.
The bacterial polymer is special, unlike the molecular make-up of starch or glycogen, this polymer is a class of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA).
One of the most prevalent forms of PHA is polyhydroxybutyrate, or PHB. Speaking from experience, PHB is an interesting macromolecule to study and observe under the microscope with cells treated with a fluorescent dye that stains PHB. PHB can account for up to 75% of the total cell weight. PHB, and PHAs in general, can be used to make plastic thus replacing the need for petroleum based plastics.
- Bacteria from Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia conceal bioplastic (eurekalert.org)
- SE Synthetic Fiber Post Serial : Polyester (nityauniforms.wordpress.com)
- Biobased market studies galore! (greenchemicalsblog.com)