, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 89–98 | Cite as

Isolation of a thermophilic bacterium capable of low-molecular-weight polyethylene degradation

  • Hyun Jeong Jeon
  • Mal Nam Kim
Original Paper


A thermophilic bacterium capable of low-molecular-weight polyethylene (LMWPE) degradation was isolated from a compost sample, and was identified as Chelatococcus sp. E1, through sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. LMWPE was prepared by thermal degradation of commercial PE in a strict nitrogen atmosphere. LMWPE with a weight-average-molecular-weight (Mw) in the range of 1,700–23,700 was noticeably mineralized into CO2 by the bacterium. The biodegradability of LMWPE decreased as the Mw increased. The low molecular weight fraction of LMWPE decreased significantly as a result of the degradation process, and thereby both the number-average-molecular-weight and Mw increased after biodegradation. The polydispersity of LMWPE was either narrowed or widened, depending on the initial Mw of LMWPE, due to the preferential elimination of the low molecular weight fraction, in comparison to the high molecular weight portion. LMWPE free from an extremely low molecular weight fraction was also mineralized by the strain at a remarkable rate, and FTIR peaks assignable to C–O stretching appeared as a result of microbial action. The FTIR peaks corresponding to alkenes also became more intense, indicating that dehydrogenations occurred concomitantly with microbial induced oxidation.


Polyethylene Degradation Bacterium Isolation Compost 



This research was supported by the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (2010-0010204).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Life ScienceSangmyung UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea

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