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Keywords:

  • biopolymers;
  • plastics;
  • polyhydroxyalkanoate;
  • rubber;
  • cyanophycin;
  • protein fibers

Summary

Plants produce a range of biopolymers for purposes such as maintenance of structural integrity, carbon storage, and defense against pathogens and desiccation. Several of these natural polymers are used by humans as food and materials, and increasingly as an energy carrier. In this review, we focus on plant biopolymers that are used as materials in bulk applications, such as plastics and elastomers, in the context of depleting resources and climate change, and consider technical and scientific bottlenecks in the production of novel or improved materials in transgenic or alternative crop plants. The biopolymers discussed are natural rubber and several polymers that are not naturally produced in plants, such as polyhydroxyalkanoates, fibrous proteins and poly-amino acids. In addition, monomers or precursors for the chemical synthesis of biopolymers, such as 4-hydroxybenzoate, itaconic acid, fructose and sorbitol, are discussed briefly.