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Biomacromolecules. 2006 Jun;7(6):1904-11.

Bacterial synthesis of PHA block copolymers.

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Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.


Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) containing block copolymers were synthesized in Cupriavidus necator using periodic substrate addition. Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB) segments were formed during fructose utilization. Pulse feeds of pentanoic acid resulted in the synthesis of 3-hydroxyvalerate monomers, forming poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV) random copolymer. PHA synthesis was controlled using analysis of oxygen uptake and carbon evolution rates from the bioreactor off-gas. A combination of characterization techniques applied to the polymer batches strongly suggests the presence of block copolymers: (i) Thermodynamically stable polymer samples obtained by fractionation and analyzed by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) indicate that some fractions, representing approximately 30% of the total polymer sample, exhibit melting characteristics and nearest-neighbor statistics indicative of block copolymers, (ii) preliminary rheology experiments indicate additional mesophase transitions only found in block copolymer materials, (iii) dynamic mechanical analysis shows extension of the rubbery plateaus in block copolymer samples, and (iv) uniaxial extension tests result in differences in mechanical properties (modulus and elongation at failure) expected of similarly prepared block copolymer and single polymer type materials.

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