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Self-biodegrading polyesters

It is known that embedding enzymes into some polyesters can expedite their biodegradation. However, previous efforts have also compromised material properties, and the preferential degradation at amorphous regions has even increased the likelihood of biohazardous crystalline microplastic formation. Here, Ting Xu and colleagues demonstrate that through judicious dispersion of tiny quantities of lipase enzymes at the polymer chain ends in semi-crystalline polyesters, structural properties are not diminished. In addition, at the end of the polyesters’ life, chain-end-mediated enzyme biodegradation ensures that both amorphous and crystalline regions are readily decomposed, eliminating almost all microplastics. The findings show how fully biodegradable plastics can be realised through an enzyme-embedding approach.

Nature Volume 592 Issue 7855

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