BIZENTE project aims to propose a disruptive technology based on applying enzymes to degrade thermoset composite materials. The proposed technology has the potential to represent a bridge between the recycling of recalcitrant materials, which are still stored in landfills once they reach the end-of-life, and the use of biocatalysts with a low energy demand.
To reach the proposed goal, BSP, in collaboration with the other project partners, is working to move this technology from its application tested with model compounds to its demonstration.
During the experimentation, the first tested thermoset materials were the so-called Generation 1 resins.Polyester-based and vinyl ester-based materials modified to host more biodegradable moieties in their structure. These kind of materials, designed and studied by the French company Specific Polymers, indeed have the same physical features as standard materials, but they also offer the potential to be more prone to receive an enzymatic cleavage on their surfaces.
On the side of enzymes, hydrolases, such as cutinases and PETases designed by Evoenzyme, were expressed in Pichia pastoris before being tested with resins. Several reaction variables were tested, and enzymes, buffers, and resins were combined at a lab-scale. After one year of trials, the analysis made on the liquid fractions extracted from the reaction environment showed the presence of some compounds detected by HPLC analysis.
Nowadays, the nature of the released compound is still unknown, and one of the aims of the following experiment campaigns will be to give an identity to the released products. In the meantime, thanks to the collected data, we can say that BIZENTEproject is ready to demonstrate that enzymes can have an interesting role in the recycling of thermoset composite materials.