What are PHAs

PHA stands for "Polyhydroxyalkanoate", a class of biopolyesters synthesized by a variety of microorganisms.

PHAs are bioplastics. Their properties are similar to many petroleum based thermoplastics and elastomeric materials. But unlike most petroleum plastics, PHAs are sustainable, biodegradable and biocompatible.

These intracellular polyester granules are accumulated, possibly as carbon and energy storage materials, or as an electron sink similar to ethanol production in fermentative organisms. PHA granules can be observed by electron microscopy (left photo below), or by phase contrast microscopy using a light microscope (right photo below).

PHA granule SEM and Phase Contrast

Polyhydroxyalkanoates are generally classified into short-chain-length PHA (SCL-PHA) and medium-chain-length PHA (MCL-PHA) by the different number of carbons in their repeating units (general structure as below). SCL-PHAs contain 4 or 5 carbons in their repeating units, while MCL-PHAs contain 6 or more carbons in the repeating units.

PHA chemical structure

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