Scanning electron microscopy of polyhydroxyalkanoate degradation by bacteria
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Bacterial degradation of sheets of selected polyhydroxyalkanoates by Comamonas sp., Pseudomonas lemoignei and Pseudomonas fluorescens GK13 is reported. Five natural polyhydroxyalkanoates were used, namely poly(3-hydroxybutyrate), poly(3-hydroxyvalerate), a copolymer of 3-hydroxybutyrate and 3-hydroxyvalerate, a copolymer of mainly 3-hydroxyoctanoate and minor amounts of 3-hydroxyhexanoate, and two rubber-like copolymers of saturated and unsaturated hydroxyalkanoic acids that had been modified by electron-beam-induced cross-linking. Each of these polymers was degraded by at least one bacterial strain, the rate of hydrolysis being dependent on the surface area of the polymer exposed to attack. Scanning electron microscopy of partially degraded samples showed that hydrolysis started at the surface and at physical lesions in the polymer and proceeded to the inner part of the material. No evidence for areas of non-degradable polymer was found for any of the polymers analysed, even if the polymer contained chemical cross-links.
KeywordsPolymer Microscopy Electron Microscopy Scan Electron Microscopy Hydrolysis
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