Biopolymers Online

Biopolymers Online

Online ISBN: 9783527600038

DOI: 10.1002/3527600035

Letter from the Editor in Chief

Biopolymers and their derivatives are diverse, abundant, important for life, they exhibit fascinating properties and are of increasing importance for various applications. Living matter is able to synthesize an overwhelming variety of polymers, which can be divided such as proteins and poly(amino acids), (3) polysaccharides such as cellulose, starch and xanthan, (4) organic polyoxoesters such as poly(hydroxyalkanoic acids), poly(malic acid) and cutin, (5) polythioesters, which were reported only recently, (6) inorganic polyesters with polyphosphate as the only example, (7) polyisoprenoides such as natural rubber or Gutta Percha and (8) polyphenols such as lignin or humic acids. 

Biopolymers occur in any organism, and in most organisms they contribute to the by far major fraction of the cellular dry matter. Biopolymers possess a wide range of different essential or beneficial functions for the organisms: conservation and expression of genetic information, catalysis of reactions, storage of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients and of energy, defense and protection against the attack of other cells or hazardous environmental or intrinsic factors, sensors of biotic and abiotic factors, communication with the environment and other organisms, mediators of adhesion to surfaces of other organisms or of non-living matter and many more. In addition, many biopolymers are structural components of cells, tissues, and whole organisms. 

To fulfil all these different functions, biopolymers must exhibit rather diverse properties. They must very specifically interact with a large variety of different substances, components and materials, and often they must have extraordinarily high affinities to them. Finally, they must have a high strength. Some of these properties are utilized directly or indirectly for various applications. This and the possibility to produce them from renewable resources, as living matter mostly does, make biopolymers interesting candidates to industry.

Basic and applied research have already revealed much knowledge on the enzyme systems catalyzing biosynthesis, degradation and modification of biopolymers as well as on the properties of biopolymers. This has also resulted in an increased interest in biopolymers for various applications in industry, medicine, pharmacy, agriculture, electronics and various other areas. However, considering the developments during the last two decades and reviewing the literature shows that our knowledge is still scarce. 

The genes for the biosynthesis pathways of many biopolymers are still not available or were identified only recently, many new biopolymers have just been described, and from only a minor fraction of biopolymers the biological, chemical, physical and material properties have been investigated. Often promising biopolymers are not available in sufficient amounts. Nevertheless, polymer chemists, engineers and material scientists in academia and industry have discovered biopolymers as chemicals and materials for many new applications, or they consider biopolymers as models to design novel synthetic polymers.
Bioploymers Online comprehensively reviews and compiles information on biopolymers in 180 articles covering (a) occurrence, synthesis, isolation and production, (b) properties and applications, (c) biodegradation and modification not only of natural but also of synthetic polymers, and (e) the relevant analysis methods to reveal the structures and properties. The subject areas are structured according to the chemical classes of biopolymers, besides two areas, focussing on aspects of the biodegradation of synthetic polymers and on general aspects related to biopolymers. 

Biopolymers Online will hopefully be helpful to many scientists, physicians, pharmaceutics, engineers and other experts in a wide variety of different disciplines, in academia and in industry. It may not only support research and development but may be also suitable for teaching.

Alexander Steinbüchel