International journal of biological macromolecules

Use of thiol-ene click chemistry to modify mechanical and thermal properties of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs).

PMID 26616449


In order to diversify the number of applications for poly[(R)-3-hydroxyalkanoates] (PHAs), methods must be developed to alter their physical properties so they are not limited to aliphatic polyesters. Recently we developed Escherichia coli LSBJ as a living biocatalyst with the ability to control the repeating unit composition of PHA polymers, including the ability to incorporate unsaturated repeating units into the PHA polymer at specific ratios. The incorporation of repeating units with terminal alkenes in the side chain of the polymer allowed for the production of random PHA copolymers with defined repeating unit ratios that can be chemically modified for the purpose of tailoring the physical properties of these materials beyond what are available in current PHAs. In this study, unsaturated PHA copolymers were chemically modified via thiol-ene click chemistry to contain an assortment of new functional groups, and the mechanical and thermal properties of these materials were measured. Results showed that cross-linking the copolymer resulted in a unique combination of improved strength and pliability and that the addition of polar functional groups increased the tensile strength, Young's modulus, and hydrophilic profile of the materials. This work demonstrates that unsaturated PHAs can be chemically modified to extend their physical properties to distinguish them from currently available PHA polymers.