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Pollution

Chemistry in Pictures: Plastic munchers

by Craig Bettenhausen
October 26, 2018

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Microplastics pose a threat to creatures in marine environments. Engineers and advocates are working on technical and political solutions to this growing problem, but Nature isn’t sitting around waiting for us to act. Microbes have evolved the ability to break down these manmade polymers. Anutthaman Parthasarathy incubated polystyrene with some of these plastic-munching bacteria and captured the scanning electron microscopy images shown. The spikey particles are polystyrene and the smoother objects are bacterial cells. Parthasarathy hopes to use gene sequencing and isotope studies to figure out the mechanism the microbes use to degrade the plastics.

Submitted by Anutthaman Parthasarathy/Richard Hailstone/RIT imaging facility

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