Most of the plastic we use today is petroleum-based and nonbiodegradable, creating more waste to crowd oceans and landfills.
To address this daunting problem, Arpita Bose, an assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, and her laboratory have spearheaded research on bioplastics. Her lab is among the first in the world to use microbial electrosynthesis to create a plastic that Bose labels sustainable, carbon-neutral and low-cost.
Bose’s laboratory created this with the help of bacterium R. palustris TIE-1, which can produce PHB polymers (the basis for certain biodegradable plastics) using only light, carbon dioxide, and soluble iron. The researchers believe that this new way of developing plastic not only can benefit our Earth, but has uses outside of it as well: Bose notes that with 3-D printer technology, astronauts could use this kind of plastic to manufacture their own tools instead of bringing them from Earth.