Influence of microbial biomass content on biodegradation and mechanical properties of poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) composites

Felix Eckel, Korbinian Sinzinger, Daniel Van Opdenbosch, Doris Schieder, Volker Sieber, Cordt Zollfrank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Biodegradation rates and mechanical properties of poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB) composites with green algae and cyanobacteria were investigated for the first time. To the authors knowledge, the addition of microbial biomass led to the biggest observed effect on biodegradation so far. The composites with microbial biomass showed an acceleration of the biodegradation rate and a higher cumulative biodegradation within 132 days compared to PHB or the biomass alone. In order to determine the causes for the faster biodegradation, the molecular weight, the crystallinity, the water uptake, the microbial biomass composition and scanning electron microscope images were assessed. The molecular weight of the PHB in the composites was lower than that of pure PHB while the crystallinity and microbial biomass composition were the same for all samples. A direct correlation of water uptake and crystallinity with biodegradation rate could not be observed. While the degradation of molecular weight of PHB during sample preparation contributed to the improvement of biodegradation, the main reason was attributed to biostimulation by the added biomass. The resulting enhancement of the biodegradation rate appears to be unique in the field of polymer biodegradation. The tensile strength was lowered, elongation at break remained constant and Young’s modulus was increased compared to pure PHB.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-224
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • Biodegradation
  • Biostimulation
  • CO-evolution
  • Microbial biomass
  • Molecular weight
  • Polyhydroxybutyrate


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