November 2020: Granted research proposal on ‘Enzymatic Depolymerisation of Synthetic Polymers’ (EnDeP)

The HIMS-Biocat and the Analytical Chemistry groups of the Van’ t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences were granted 265 k€ by TKI Chemie–Holland Chemistry for a joined proposal on the enzymatic depolymerisation of synthetic polymers. The project will be run in collaborations with the industrial partners DSM Coating Resins B.V. and InnoSyn B.V.. The project was granted under the ‘PPS programmatoeslag’ and will run for 2 years.

Accumulation of plastic materials in the environment and their efficient recycling constitute essential challenges of contemporary society. Therefore, during the past decade, academia and industry have invested significant efforts in the development of new plastic materials that are inherently degradable in the environment. However, the replacement of traditional plastic materials with new generation biodegradable alternatives is not always possible. In fact, there are technical applications for which conventional polymers still offer a superior performance that is mandatory. However, it appears that the degradability of these traditional polymers can be tuned as it is also linked to their particular physicochemical and structural properties. Surprisingly, these polymers properties of performance vs. degradability have not been fully elucidated. Therefore, this project will develop new biocatalysts (i.e., enzymes) for the selective (i.e., ‘chemically controlled’) degradation of polymeric materials, and will provide advanced analytical techniques for the determination of the key factors that influence the polymer degradability. Thus, this research will contribute to generate the required knowledge to understand the process of depolymerisation of synthetic polymers and will provide a toolbox of biocatalysts to be used for efficient plastic recycling, for bioremediation and as a tool in analytical chemistry of polymers.

Project PIs: Prof. Francesco Mutti (HIMS-Biocat) & Assist. Prof. Andrea Gargano (Anal. Chem.)

Link to Holland Chemistry web-site