A team at the University of Texas at Austin has developed a way to recycle plastic in a week using a modified enzyme. The results of the study are published in the journal Nature.
In the course of the work, scientists used machine learning to create the FAST-PETase enzyme, which can break down molecules of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which accounts for 12 percent of the world’s waste. The enzyme was obtained using artificial intelligence and machine learning. The process of destruction of plastic with the help of this substance occurs in a week at a temperature of 40 to 50 degrees Celsius.
In addition, scientists were able to carry out depolymerization, that is, the transformation of a polymer into a monomer. The resulting material can then be repolymerized—assembled into virgin plastic—and converted into other products.
Scientists hope that their development will overcome the existing environmental crisis caused by a large amount of plastic waste. In further studies, the specialists want to test FAST-PETase on different types of PET.