By Rubina Obaid
Turning biomass DNA from organic matter such as onion, fish, and algae into gels and plastics which are biodegradable. These materials are used for the production of everyday plastic objects, strong adhesives, multifunctional composites, and more effective methods of drug delivery using these materials, without causing any harm to the environment.
Growing concerns for the accumulation of waste landfills in natural habitats and wreaking havoc for wildlife due to the leaching of chemical, ingestion, and entanglement of plastic products, leads to the perpetual evolution of environmental discoveries. Hence, the world is transforming to build the economy on a sustainable basis, and also thriving to replace environment-friendly sources and biodegradable material. Biodegradable materials are easy to be broken down and the products are made up of organic materials such as wood, cotton, and hemp. Hence, the waste becomes more beneficial to the environment, quicker to decompose, enriches the soil, and reduces the threat for the wildlife. Therefore, biodegradable products are a better alternative to plastic and leave less impact than non-degradable products. In order to replace the most petrochemical-derived products which are complex to be degraded, a unique strategy has been evolved to directly convert biomass DNA, to diverse materials that include gels, membranes, and plastic without polymer synthesis and without breaking down DNA into the building blocks.
DNA has got the capability to store the blueprint of genetic code that further helps in the evolution of other species. A Cornell-led collaboration is turning DNA from organic matter such as onion, fish, and algae into gels and plastics which are biodegradable. These materials are used for the production of everyday plastic objects, strong adhesives, multifunctional composites, and more effective methods of drug delivery using these materials, without causing any harm to the environment. The collaboration of the research has been led by the professor of biological and environmental engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Mr. Dan Luo. He explored numerous ways to use biomass DNA as genetic and using it as generic material on its properties as a novel polymer. Dan Luo said that “There are many reasons why DNA is so good as genetic material, DNA is programmable. It has more than 4000 nanotools, those are enzymes that can be used to manipulate the DNA and DNA is biocompatible. You eat DNA all the time, it is non-toxic and degradable. Essentially you can compost it.”
The Luo’s team further emphasized that sufficient biomass DNA resources are available out of which only 1% of the amount can fulfill the world’s need of the plastic for a year. The process is administered to breakdown polysaccharides and resynthesized into polymers which require extra energy and extreme temperature. Hence, the team bypassed the breakdown-synthesis process by developing a one-step cross-linking method that helps in maintaining DNA’s function as a polymer without breaking its chemical bonds. Eventually, the researchers extract the DNA from any organic source such as bacteria, algae, salmon, or apple pomace and then dissolve it in water to let the PH of the solution adjusted with alkali, then polyethylene glycol diacrylate is added which chemically links with the DNA to form the hydrogel. Cross-linking also allows us to tweak the new materials with unusual properties. THE biomass DNA conversion approach is expected to be adaptable to other biomass molecules also including biomass proteins. This breakthrough provides a new dimension to envision for an exciting era where biomass will mostly replace petrochemical for a promising green environment.