Nature and Chemical Industry produce a vast number of different polymers. Polymers are not only essential for life, they are also indispensable for the daily life. Modifications of polymers after their synthesis can increase the number of available polymer structures and their applications even further. Postsynthetic modifications of polymers are achieved by enzymatic or chemical methods. One important and well-known example is methylcellulose, which is obtained in large amounts by a chemical process from natural cellulose and which is used in many applications.
The lecture focusses on two natural polymers and their perspectives for modifications. (i) One is the bacterial polymer cyanophycin. It consists of a backbone of polyaspartic acid with the second carboxylic group of aspartic acid covalently linked to arginine. (ii) The other is natural rubber. It is a diene rubber with double bonds in the macromolecular backbone after the polymerization process. Arginine and the covalent linkages between the building blocks in cyanophycin on one side and the double bonds in natural rubber on the other side, respectively, are targets for modifications of these polymers by enzymes or click chemistry or general chemical approaches. The perspectives of these modifications will be outlined and summarized in the lecture and possible impacts for applications will be presented.
Prof. Dr. Alexander Steinbüchel
Alexander Steinbüchel was born in 1953 in Lüneburg and studied Biology at the University of Göttingen. After receiving his PhD (Prof. Hans-Günther Schlegel, 1983), he spent one year (1985) at the Rockefeller University in New York with Prof. Christian DeDuve. Returning to Göttingen, he completed his habilitation in 1991. He was awarded the Philip Morris research prize in 1992. He has been Chair of Microbiology and the Director of the Institute for Microbiology and Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Münster since 1994. A second affiliation is as Distinguished Adjunct Professor at the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia). Since December 2020 he is the Director of the new research Center ICRI-BioM at the Polytechnika in Lodz (Poland).
His research interests include microbial synthesis of polymers like poly(thio)esters and polyamides, the microbial degradation of polyisoprenoides, as well as the production and metabolism of compounds like lipids, organic sulfur compounds and vanillin. The focus is on the characterization of key enzymes and the engineering of the metabolism aiming at the development and engineering of improved biotechnological production processes and the biosynthesis of novel compounds and materials. He is also interested in the degradation and modification of various polymers by enzymatic and chemical methods. He has published more than 500 papers in peer-review journals and edited the 12-volume handbook ‘Biopolymer’ at WILEY-VCH.