Microorganisms can degrade a variety of plastics in nature. We are interested in the microbial degradation of plastics used as structural materials. Typically, these exists in the form of polymer-based composites and are used in a wide variety of common applications needing lightweight and durable materials. These materials contain carbon compounds such as vinyl esters, phenolic compounds, and acrylate which can be utilized by microorganisms as carbon sources. We are studying the physical and enzymatic processes that drive the degradation of individual carbon compounds, polymers, and fully synthesized carbon composites.
Our research is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Pavana Prabhakar’s group in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UW-Madison.