Although our world today suffers from plastic waste pollution, humanity cannot refuse this category of materials. Most of the plastic is based on ethylene, which is extracted from crude oil and natural gas, which makes a strong case for extracting this fossil raw material. However, a recent discovery by American scientists could change everything - they learned how to obtain ethylene in large quantities from bacteria.
Scientists have previously known microorganisms whose natural metabolic process is based on the absorption of sulfur, and the final product is ethylene. But these bacteria are aerobes, for life they need pure oxygen, which in combination with ethylene is a very explosive mixture. As long as the bacterial colony is small, the risk is also minimal, but industrial production of ethylene in this way is almost guaranteed to lead to disaster.
Researchers at Ohio State University, who were involved in this task, after a series of searches, came up with a bacterium called Rhodospirillum rubrum. She is an anaerobic, lives and produces ethylene in an oxygen-free environment, which has become a real godsend. Scientists have carefully analyzed its metabolic reactions and have found that they can easily stimulate the bacteria to produce unexpectedly large volumes of ethylene.
The process of studying the practical application of Rhodospirillum rubrum is still at the stage of laboratory experiments, but scientists are already talking about a new enzyme system with great potential. Obtaining plastic without refining oil is only the initial stage, the future of the chemical industry lies in the use of biological systems that will allow us to efficiently process all types of raw materials available to us.