Students Free Water of Microplastics in "Plastractor" Project


Aachen project wins gold at international competition.


A group of students from Aachen took part in the iGEM competition and presented their "Plastractor", which removes microplastics from liquids, at the competition final in Boston, US. The international student competition in synthetic biology attracted more than 6,000 participants in a total of 370 teams. The Aachen team won the gold medal for their highly complex research. Their project also achieved top position in the "Best Environmental Project" category.

The group includes eight students from RWTH Aachen University and one student from FH Aachen. They are enrolled in biotechnology, biology, electrical engineering, or physics. The group independently organized, implemented, and financed their project. The students met together for the first time at the beginning of the year with laboratory work commencing in April. The laboratory and travel costs were financed by sponsors and grants from different foundations.

“Plastractor” focuses on the bacterium Rhodospirillum rubrum magneticum, which produces so-called magnetosomes – nanoparticles filled with iron oxide crystals and surrounded by a double membrane – that enables them to be attracted to magnets. The students docked specially developed fusion proteins composed of polymer binding peptide and fluorophore to the magnetosomes using a genetic engineering process. If the magnetosomes bind to the plastic, the plastic parts can be removed from the liquid with the aid of a magnet. The amount and type of plastic particles can also be analyzed with fluorescence. There is now potential for further application possibilities using other highly specific binding peptides.

Source: Press and Communications