An enzyme variant created by engineers and scientists at The University of Texas at Austin can break down environment-throttling plastics that typically take centuries to degrade in just a matter of hours to days.
This discovery, published today in Nature, could help solve one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems: what to do with the billions of tons of plastic waste piling up in landfills and polluting our natural lands and water. The enzyme has the potential to supercharge recycling on a large scale that would allow major industries to reduce their environmental impact by recovering and reusing plastics at the molecular level… Continue reading.
A team of chemical engineers has developed a new way to produce medicines and chemicals on demand and preserve them using portable “biofactories” embedded in water-based gels called hydrogels. The approach could help people in remote villages or on military missions, where the absence of pharmacies, doctor’s offices or even basic refrigeration makes it hard to access critical medicines, daily use chemicals and other small-molecule compounds.
Led by Hal Alper, professor at The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering, in collaboration with chemist Alshakim Nelson and his research group at the University of Washington, this first-of-its-kind system effectively embeds microbial biofactories — cells bioengineered to overproduce a product — into the solid support of a hydrogel, allowing for portability and optimized production. It is the first hydrogel-based system to organize both individual microbes and consortia for in-the-moment production of high-value chemical feedstocks, used for processes such as fuel production, and pharmaceuticals. Products can be produced within a couple of hours to a couple of days… Continue reading.
Hal S. Alper, Ph.D. is the recipient of the 2019 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Engineering from TAMEST (The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas).
Dr. Alper’s research looks for sustainable ways to create new molecules that can be used for plastics, drugs and other products that typically require petroleum products as a feedstock. His work has the potential to significantly reduce pollution in the chemical industry by reducing and reusing waste. His innovative, paradigm-changing approach could lead to new drugs and sustainable plastics at an industrial scale… Continue reading.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has announced the induction of Hal Alper, Ph.D., Paul D. & Betty Robertson Meek Centennial Professor Frank A. Liddell, Jr. Centennial Fellow, Department of Chemical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, to its College of Fellows. Dr. Alper was nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows for pioneering new approaches that merge synthetic biology, protein engineering, and metabolic engineering to achieve novel phenotypes in eukaryotic cells.