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pH-Responsive Biohybrid Carrier Material for Phenol Decontamination in Wastewater

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journal contribution
posted on 25.06.2018, 00:00 by Martin Pretscher, Beatriz A. Pineda-Contreras, Patrick Kaiser, Steffen Reich, Judith Schöbel, Christian Kuttner, Ruth Freitag, Andreas Fery, Holger Schmalz, Seema Agarwal
Smart polymers are a valuable platform to protect and control the activity of biological agents over a wide range of conditions, such as low pH, by proper encapsulation. Such conditions are present in olive oil mill wastewater with phenol as one of the most problematic constituents. We show that elastic and pH-responsive diblock copolymer fibers are a suitable carrier for Corynebacterium glutamicum, i.e., bacteria which are known for their ability to degrade phenol. Free C. glutamicum does not survive low pH conditions and fails to degrade phenol at low pH conditions. Our tea-bag like biohybrid system, where the pH-responsive diblock copolymer acts as a protecting outer shell for the embedded bacteria, allows phenol degradation even at low pH. Utilizing a two-step encapsulation process, planktonic cells were first encapsulated in poly­(vinyl alcohol) to protect the bacteria against the organic solvents used in the second step employing coaxial electrospinning.