“Addressing the Plastics Dilemma: Design and Synthesis of Sustainable Polymers Aided by Microgravity”
Putting Microbes to Work—Harnessing microbial activity to produce, upcycle, and biodegrade more sustainable polymers.
- Living foundries to manufacture biopolymers.
- Directed evolution of cells and enzymes for polymer upcycling or biodegradation.
Sustainable Polymer Feedstocks.
- Chemical, biological, and photocatalytic processes to convert waste hydrocarbon (CO2, methane, etc.) into monomers or other polymer feedstocks.
- Improved high surface area materials for capture, separation, and catalysis of waste carbon gases for use as polymer feedstocks.
Closing the Polymer Loop.
- Chemical or biological processes to break down recycled polymers for upcycling.
- Improving multi-polymer recycling through improved stabilizers.
Few other environmental topics have garnered as much widespread public interest as plastic pollution. Synthetic plastic waste, be it macro or microplastic, is now known to be pervasive throughout the Earth’s biosphere, including in land and marine environments far from human populations.
In today’s fast-paced, digital age where information travels around the world at a speed matching the often too-frenetic pace of our own lives, we are constantly presented with stark reminders of the challenges of sustainable development.
Last week at the World Economic Forum at Davos, climate change and sustainability were front and center in the discussion among world leaders and corporate executives. These topics are important to consider in acting as good stewards for society, the environment, and future generations.
Now more than ever, it is important to address these issues, and scientists are leveraging the ISS National Lab to gain new insights into global environmental challenges and develop new solutions to benefit Earth.
Sustainability as a whole is difficult to define. It encompasses a number of niches with different interpretations. However, sustainability can be easily divided into three larger categories: environmental sustainability, economic sustainability, and social sustainability.
Sustainability is a priority area of research and development (R&D) for the International Space Station (ISS) National Lab, and sustainability-related projects currently comprise about 13 percent of the ISS National Lab portfolio.