미래를 창조하는 포스텍 화학공학과
Polystyrene (PS), which accounts for a significant fraction of plastic wastes, is difficult to biodegrade due to its unique molecular structure. Therefore, biodegradation and chemical modification of PS are limited. In this study, we report PS biodegradation by the larvae of the darkling beetle Plesiophthalmus davidis (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae). In 14 days, P. davidis ingested 34.274.04 mg of Styrofoam(PS foam) per larva and survived by feeding only on Styrofoam. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy confirmed that the ingested Styrofoam was oxidized. Gel permeation chromatography analysis indicated the decrease in average molecular weight of the residual PS in the frass compared with the feed Styrofoam. When the extracted gut flora was cultured for 20 days with PS films, biofilm and cavities were observed by scanning electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy. X-ray photoelectron
spectroscopy (XPS) studies revealed that C-O bonding was introduced into the biodegraded PS film. Serratia sp. strain WSW (KCTC 82146), which was isolated from the gut flora, also formed a biofilm and cavities on the PS film in 20 days, but its degradation was less prominent than the gut flora. XPS confirmed that C-O and CO bonds were introduced into the biodegraded PS film by Serratia sp. WSW. Microbial community analysis revealed that Serratia was in the gut flora in significant amounts and increased sixfold when the larvae were fed Styrofoam for 2 weeks. This suggests that P. davidis larvae and its gut bacteria could be used to chemically modify and rapidly degrade PS.