Industrial Production of Poly-?-hydroxybutyrate from CO2: Can Cyanobacteria Meet this Challenge?
The increasing impact of plastic materials on the environment is a growing global concern. In regards to this circumstance, it is a major challenge to find new sources for the production of bioplastics. Poly-&beta;-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) is characterized by interesting features that draw attention for research and commercial ventures. Indeed, PHB is eco-friendly, biodegradable, and biocompatible. Bacterial fermentation processes are a known route to produce PHB. However, the production of PHB through the chemoheterotrophic bacterial system is very expensive due to the high costs of the carbon source for the growth of the organism. On the contrary, the production of PHB through the photoautotrophic cyanobacterium system is considered an attractive alternative for a low-cost PHB production because of the inexpensive feedstock (CO2 and light). This paper regards the evaluation of four independent strategies to improve the PHB production by cyanobacteria: (i) the design of the medium; (ii) the genetic engineering to improve the PHB accumulation; (iii) the development of robust models as a tool to identify the bottleneck(s) of the PHB production to maximize the production; and (iv) the continuous operation mode in a photobioreactor for PHB production. The synergic effect of these strategies could address the design of the optimal PHB production process by cyanobacteria. A further limitation for the commercial production of PHB via the biotechnological route are the high costs related to the recovery of PHB granules. Therefore, a further challenge is to select a low-cost and environmentally friendly process to recover PHB from cyanobacteria.