Biomimetic Renewable Plant Material for Environmental Remediation


Chemical pollution presents a significant threat to the planetary environment, ecosystems, and human health. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are ubiquitous synthetic industrial chemicals that pose exposure health risks for all organisms. Here, we present a new concept of biomimetic plant material derived from renewable resources for in-situ microbial environmental remediation of pollutants. We modified and integrated the two most abundant agricultural residues, lignin, and cellulose, to ‘reverse-engineer’ the new material that mimics plant secondary cell wall structure and enables plant-microbial interactions. The results show that the biomimetic material serves as a highly effective sorbent and microbial feedstock to facilitate in-situ fungal biotransformation of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) PFAS. The new material reaches a record level of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) adsorption capacity at 3529 mg/g and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) at 4151 mg/g. The PFAS enriched material further serves as a solid substrate to grow bioremediation microorganisms such as white-rot fungus Irpex lacteus, where the synthetic substrate derived from natural ingredients efficiently stimulates the microbial detoxification and degradation of POPs such as PFAS. Unlike traditional sorbents, the bioinspired new material adsorbs, enriches, and degrades the environmental contaminants in the same integrated system, presenting a tandem-in-time sequential remediation strategy. Furthermore, the biomimetic material brings lower environmental impacts as it can be biodegraded by microorganisms. We anticipate our biomimetic renewable material opens up a new direction for designing bioinspired materials as a sustainable technology to revolutionize the remediation invention, providing unique opportunities to produce low-cost bioreactors for pollutant remediation and sustainable synthetic chemical management.

Revision in Nature Communications
Yabin Da
Yabin Da
PhD Candidate in Agricultural Economics

Research interests include Environmental Economics, Applied Econometrics, and Causal Inference.