Biocatalytic Polyester Synthesis

EPA Grant Number: R828131
Title: Biocatalytic Polyester Synthesis
Investigators: Russell, Alan J.
Current Investigators: Russell, Alan J. , Beckman, Eric J.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
EPA Project Officer: Klieforth, Barbara I
Project Period: April 1, 2000 through March 31, 2003 (Extended to September 30, 2004)
Project Amount: $375,000
RFA: Technology for a Sustainable Environment (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Nanotechnology , Sustainability , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development


We will use our expertise to further develop and understand an approach to biocatalytic polyesterification. The large scale synthesis of a plastic by green technology could have a real impact on both polymer designability and the environment.


The research concerns enzyme catalyzed polymer synthesis in which there is either no solvent, or an environmentally benign solvent. The bulk polymerizations proposed will mirror conventional synthesis but will eliminate the need for extreme of temperature and corrosive acid catalysts, and will be used to generate polymers which are difficult or impossible to synthesize using classical polymer chemistry. The environmentally benign solvents to be used are supercritical carbon dioxide as a viscosity modifier, and a series of non-volatile ionic liquids. The research in ionic liquids represents the first use of enzymes in these solvents which offer such hope to the environment.

Expected Results:

This research will enable a detailed understanding of rapid and efficient synthesis of polyesters from bulk monomers under ambient conditions with very low biocatalyst concentrations. Furthermore, the work will address critical issues such as how to control polymer molecular weight and dispersity, and minimize the production of toxic by-products.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 16 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 7 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

enzymes, polymers, ionic liquids, supercritical carbon dioxide,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Technology for Sustainable Environment, viscosity modifier, cleaner production, environmentally benign solvents, alternative materials, green process systems, supercritical carbon dioxide, biocatalytic polymer synthesis, toxicity, plastic, ionic liquids, pollution prevention, toxic reagents, polymer design, biocatalysis, environmentally-friendly chemical synthesis

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000
  • 2001
  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2003
  • Final