Biopolymers in Engineering & Affects to the Environment 

Categories: EnvironmentNature

Introduction

Biopolymers are a unique type of polymer that continues to be used in a wide range of applications in today’s world. Biopolymers can also be referred to as biodegradable polymers due to their chemical and physical characteristics, such as deterioration. Native or from a synthetic origin, biodegradable polymers are designed to break down upon disposal by living organisms as well as byproducts such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water and biomass. Biopolymers have been on earth for a long time and is a renewable source, which is derived from green plants, fungi, bacteria, and animals.

This kind of polymer is formed by monomeric units that are covalently bonded, in result making larger structures.

In detail there are three main classes of structures that make up biodegradable polymers; polynucleotides, polypeptides, and polysaccharides [5]. Due to the complexity of these structures’ biopolymers can used in processability, tissue engineering, biomedical applications, and is environmentally friendly unlike some materials. This paper will be focused on the applications, how biopolymers are effective, and its effect on the environment.

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This will include the how the structure(s) gives biopolymers its properties as well as the functionality, the role it plays to the environment, and a comparison to other materials.

Structure and Properties

Biopolymers are complex constituents made up of large covalently bonded structures; one of these structures are polynucleotides (PNs). PNs are 13 or more nucleotide monomers bonded in a linear chain that create deoxyribonucleic (DNA) a and ribonucleic acid (RNA), which give these molecules its biological function.

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The building blocks of a single nucleotide are made up of three types of chemicals; phosphates, sugars, and an organic base (thymine paired to cytosine & adenine with guanine) [2]. A property DNA is known for is it can make duplicates of itself and forms a double helix structure [3]. When all these components are formed together, it creates a sequence of codes determining how the organism is made/functions.

In reference about how things are made brings the next main class of structures; polypeptides. Polypeptides are continuous unbranched long-chain peptides, which are made up of amino acids. These amino acids are building blocks for proteins that carry various functions throughout the body including growth & maintenance, biochemical reactions, balances fluids, immune support, transports & stores nutrients, and provides energy [9]. There are many forms of amino acids, but the basic structure contains an amino group (NH2), carboxyl group (COOH), and a hydrogen [8]. The determining factor of the reactivity of the amino acid is the side chain; R-group [8].

The formation of polypeptides is through condensation, where the amino group and carboxyl group bond. During this process a water molecule is created and removed from the system and a nitrogen and carbon atom form together, refer to Figure 2 [8]. These polypeptides make protein, which are the building blocks of body tissue and serve as a source of growth and repair to the human body

Lastly in the main class of structures involving biopolymers are polysaccharides; large molecules linked together by monosaccharides. These monosaccharides range from highly branched to long-linear chains creating essentially complex carbohydrates, such as sugars. Glycosidic bond is the process on how these monosaccharides are linked together; consisting an oxygen and hydrogen molecules. The interaction involved are hydroxyl groups (OH), arrangement of molecules, enzymes, and other side groups that affect the polysaccharide [10].

Just like the other structures polysaccharides have many forms, but all have the functionality of either storing energy, cellular communication, and or cellular support.

Applications

Biopolymers have been incorporated in the medical field for the use of tissue engineering and medical devices. Studies and research have been discovered that using and modifying polymers can be used for skin rejuvenation. A case study from Park (2016), show that derived purified polynucleotides (PNs) from germ cells of salmon and other fish. The case study using these purifies polynucleotides have improved tissue regeneration specifically in the face from people who had damaged skin. This test was performed on five Korean women in their 30’s and 40’s injecting four long-chain PN fillers in two-week intervals. The duration of this test went for 12 weeks; the results showed in improvement in skin thickness, melanin, pore, skin tone, wrinkle, and sagging in the face; refer to Figure 4.

This recent discovery of long-chained PNs is primarily used for tissue healing and anti-inflammatory effects, having shown case studies of cell growth [1].

In addition, dextran, a derived form of polysaccharides is another useful application used in the medical field. It is a high-molecular weight plasma volume expander, for the application of restoring blood plasma in an incident of losing high amount of blood [11]. From this it comes with the other health benefits that include tissue repair, cell recruitment, cardiomyocyte protection, and the reduction of heart disease. Article written by Silva 2019, investigated tactics of using polysaccharides for heart tissue engineering to help prevent cardiac wall thinning, pro-inflammatory signaling, and cell death. A case study showing the use of dextran, did not require the use of an anticoagulant treatment, slowing or rapidly moving blood flow. [12]. In addition, scaffolds, a product of crosslinked dextran and pullulan were able to withstand pressures of blood flow in physiological flow conditions [12]. From this helped circulation of the blood within the heart as well as forming biological stresses in the body. In summary this improved cardiac functionality by increased blood flow and reducing stress throughout the entire body.

Effects to the Environment:

Due to the high demand of renewable technology, biopolymers have been considered to solve problems such as pollution, climate control, disposal waste, and the reservation of finite amount of fossil fuel. Since biopolymers are able to degrade upon the action of living mirco-organisms, researchers have been implementing many methods and technology in efforts to reduce plastic waste (litter). It is shown that traditional plastics take up space and can be toxic when exposed to the environment including creatures. A serious case where non-biodegradable plastics play a role is in the marine environment affecting sea life. Sea life is harmed by either the release of toxic gas from the non-biodegradable plastics or being eaten by fish and other sea creatures. Because of this some countries ban the use of traditional plastics and get fined.

The use of biopolymers instead of traditional plastics would also contribute in the reduction of carbon emission. Switching over to biodegradable plastics instead of traditional ones would reduce the exposure of 180 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually [13]. Some of these plastics come from hospitals, which contribute to 15-25% waste in the U.S having a total maximum of 850 million pounds of plastic waster per year [13]. Replacing these traditional would have a immense positive effect to not only our environment, but to humanity.

Conclusion

Biopolymers have existed since the very beginning and has contributed to our daily lives whether we believe it or not. Millions and millions of polymeric biomolecular chains formed together delivering various mechanical and chemical properties. From this wide range of applications are used from biopolymer especially in the medical field. What make these biopolymers effective is from the three classes of polymer chains that produce it are polynucleotides, polypeptides, and polysaccharides. In addition, this allows polymers to be biodegradable reducing the high rates of plastic waste and applied to manufacturing processes. With continued research and technology biopolymers will be the future of advocating the preservation of the environment and all the organisms living in it.

Citations:

  1.  Park, Kui Young, et al. “Long-Chain Polynucleotide Filler for Skin Rejuvenation: Efficacy and Complications in Five Patients.” Dermatologic Therapy, vol. 29, no. 1, Jan. 2016, pp. 37–40. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/dth.12299.
  2.  Blamire, John. “The Giant Molecules of Life.” BIOdotEDU, Science at a Distance, 1999, www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/bc/ahp/SDPS/SD.PS.polynuc.html.
  3.  Newman, Tim. “DNA Explained: Structure and Function.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 11 Jan. 2018, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319818.php.
  4. Ebnesajjad, Sina. “Biodegradable Polymers.” NeuroImage, Academic Press, 2013, www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemical-engineering/biodegradable-polymers.
  5. “Biopolymer – History, Structure, Classification, Types, Uses and Benefits.” Chemistry Learner, 26 Nov. 2011, www.chemistrylearner.com/biopolymer.html.
  6. Yadav, Preeti et al. “Biomedical Biopolymers, their Origin and Evolution in Biomedical Sciences: A Systematic Review” Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR vol. 9,9 (2015): ZE21-5.
  7. Gross, Richard A., and Bhanu Kalra. “Biodegradable Polymers for the Environment.” Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2 Aug. 2002, science.sciencemag.org/content/297/5582/803.full.
  8. Reddy, Michael K. “Amino Acid.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 30 Oct. 2018, www.britannica.com/science/amino-acid.
  9. Van De Walle, Gavin. “9 Important Functions of Protein in Your Body.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 20 June 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/functions-of-protein#section3.
  10.  ‘Polysaccharides.’ Chemistry: Foundations and Applications. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Nov. 2018 .
  11. Multum, Cerner. “Dextran (High Molecular Weight) Uses, Side Effects & Warnings.” Drugs.com, Drugs.com, 26 Nov. 2018, www.drugs.com/mtm/dextran-high-molecular-weight.html.
  12. Silva, A.K.A., et al. ‘Polysaccharide-based strategies for heart tissue engineering.’ Carbohydrate Polymers, vol. 116, 2015, pp.267-277. OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center, doi:10.1016/J.CARBPOL.2014.06.010.
  13. North, Emily J and Rolf U Halden. “Plastics and environmental health: the road ahead” Reviews on environmental health vol. 28,1 (2013): 1-8.

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 Biopolymers in Engineering & Affects to the Environment . (2022, Jun 07). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/biopolymers-in-engineering-affects-to-the-environment-essay

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