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Keywords:

  • poly-β-hydroxybutyrate;
  • stem and fiber tensile properties;
  • FT-IR (Fourier Transform InfraRed) spectroscopy;
  • SEM (scanning electron microscope);
  • Linum usitatissimum

Abstract

The interest in biofibers has grown in recent years due to their expanding range of applications in fields as diverse as biomedical science and the automotive industry. Their low production costs, biodegradability, physical properties, and perceived eco-friendliness allow for their extensive use as composite components, a role in which they could replace petroleum-based synthetic polymers. We performed biochemical, mechanical, and structural analyses of flax stems and fibers derived from field-grown transgenic flax enriched with PHB (poly-β-hydroxybutyrate). The analyses of the plant stems revealed an increase in the cellulose content and a decrease in the lignin and pectin contents relative to the control plants. However, the contents of the fibers' major components (cellulose, lignin, pectin) remain unchanged. An FT-IR study confirmed the results of the biochemical analyses of the flax fibers. However, the arrangement of the cellulose polymer in the transgenic fibers differed from that in the control, and a significant increase in the number of hydrogen bonds was detected. The mechanical properties of the transgenic flax stems were significantly improved, reflecting the cellulose content increase. However, the mechanical properties of the fibers did not change in comparison with the control, with the exception of the fibers from transgenic line M13. The generated transgenic flax plants, which produce both components of the flax/PHB composites (i.e., fibers and thermoplastic matrix in the same plant organ) are a source of an attractive and ecologically safe material for industry and medicine. © 2009 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2009