Scientists have designed a new material system to overcome one of the biggest challenges in recycling consumer products: mixed-plastic recycling. Their achievement will help enable a much broader range of fully recyclable plastic products and brings into reach an efficient circular economy for durable goods like automobiles.
When the COVID-19 pandemic required nearly everyone to stay at home and change their daily routines, Deepanwita Banerjee picked up a new hobby. She started building a miniature house. For Banerjee, who was born and raised in New Delhi, India, reusing items around the house was learned at an early age. This perspective was ingrained and continues to influence her life now — from her at-home dollhouse project to recycling genes to build more sustainable products in her role at Berkeley Lab.
Three Biosciences Area members were recently highlighted in the video series, Basics2Breakthroughs, which focuses on early career scientists discussing their research and what they hope for the future in that research.
Synthetic biologists have successfully engineered microbes to make chemicals cheaply and more sustainably. However, researchers have been limited by the fact that microbes can only make molecules using chemical reactions seen in nature.
A collaboration between scientists at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley has engineered the microbe E. coli to produce a molecule that, until now, could only be synthesized in a laboratory.
A multidisciplinary Berkeley Lab team led by the Joint Bioenergy Institute’s Corinne Scown and the Molecular Foundry’s Brett Helms, has been working for several years to develop a game-changing plastic that, unlike traditional plastics, can be recycled indefinitely and is not made from petroleum. Scown and Helms spoke with Berkeley Lab on the inspiration for this plastic, shortfalls in our current recycling systems, and how this ambitious project is enabled by a diverse combination of scientific expertise.