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SynThetic BiolOgy Driven Approach to Repurpose PolyaMides (STORM)

EMSL Project ID


Nylon-6 (PA6) is a polyamide polymer abundant in clothing, ropes, fabrics, and automobile parts. The U.S. annual consumption of PA6 is ~0.5 million metric tons with manufacturing yields of 2.9 kg of CO2 e/kg of net greenhouse gases per year. Recycling and upcycling of this polymer is difficult, and only ~5% of polyamide waste is currently recycled. Therefore, novel upcycling processes that can both degrade PA6 and produce valuable products are needed to divert these materials from landfills and incinerators. We propose SynThetic BiolOgy Driven Approach to Repurpose PolyaMides (STORM) – an optimization framework and processing technology to upcycle PA6 into high value monomers. Specifically, STORM will use synthetic biology approaches to efficiently degrade PA6 and upcycle degradation products into caprolactam, the virgin monomer used for polymerization. Down-selection of PA6 degrading enzymes will be accomplished through a multi-faceted approach involving molecular modeling, and structural characterization of enzymes in a model systems and PA6s. Team 1 will lead this effort and perform experimental testing of enzymes, isolates, and environmental enrichments with PA6 to assess degradation efficacy. Our team is supported by Team 2 with their state-of-the-art enzyme discovery and optimization and Team 3 with polymer analysis techniques. We request the assistance and collaboration of U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory (EMSL) in the STORM program through the following activities: (1) computational modeling to determine optimal binding surfaces of enzymes and polymer conformations for PA6 degradation (EMSL); and (2) structural characterization of degraded PA6 oligomers. Support from these institutions will allow STORM to develop novel biological mechanisms to degrade and upcycle PA6, which is essential to establish a fundamental understanding and removal of this recalcitrant polymer and increasing its circularity in the plastics economy.

Project Details

Project type
Exploratory Research
Start Date
End Date


Principal Investigator

Kate Kucharzyk
Battelle Memorial Institute

Team Members

Ross Siegel
Battelle Columbus

Chris Buurma
Battelle Columbus