About this Research Topic
Polymers obtained from plant biomass have attracted much interest as alternatives to petroleum-derived synthetic polymers. The substitution of petroleum-derived to biomass-derived polymers is recognized as an important target to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A major challenge in achieving these goals is finding ways to regulate material properties of biomass-derived polymers, specifically polymer structure.
The structural diversity of natural polymers is not fully characterized. In addition, the known structures of polymers and monomers synthesized using biomass-derived material is limited compared to petroleum-derived products. However, recent advances in chemical, biological, and hybrid processes are overcoming these limitations for synthesis of biomass-derived materials. Although conventional biomass-derived polymers are relatively soft and weak, new synthetic methods enable synthesis of bioengineered polymers with high physical strength and thermostability. Even non-biological molecules such as bisphenols are being synthesized via biological process.
At the same time, engineering approaches are allowing regulation of the structure of biosynthesized polymers/oligomers, such as polyesters, polyamides and polysaccharides. Some of these biopolymers are bioactive and potentially useful in food and medical applications. Another important feature of some of the biomass-derived polymers is biodegradability. There is a certain confusion regarding use of the term “biodegradability”, because biodegradability is currently defined as mineralization in compost, but not natural environments. Recently, the significance of biodegradation is becoming apparent as the global plastic pollution and its effect on the environment is recognized. All these factors emphasize the role of biomass-derived polymers, amongst other applications, as a substitute for synthetic polymers.
This Research Topic will highlight recent advances in our understanding of biomass-derived polymers in terms of, but not limited to, their synthesis, metabolic pathways, modifications, processing, as well as polymer structure, material properties, and degradation.
Keywords: biomass, biosynthesis, biodegradable, polymers, synthetic
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