Microbiological degradation of pentane by immobilized cells of Arthrobacter sp.

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The increasing production of several plastics such as expanded polystyrene, widely used as packaging and building materials, has caused the release of considerable amounts of pentane employed as an expanding agent. Today many microorganisms are used to degrade hydrocarbons in order to minimize contamination caused by several industrial activities. The aim of our work was to identify a suitable microorganism to degrade pentane. We focused our attention on a strain of Arthrobacter sp. which in a shake-flask culture produced 95% degradation of a 10% mixture of pentane in a minimal medium after 42days of incubation at 20°C. Arthrobacter sp. cells were immobilized on a macroporous polystyrene particle matrix that provides a promising novel support for cell immobilization. The method involved culturing cells with the expanded polystyrene in shake-flasks, followed by in situ growth within the column. Scanning electron microscopy analysis showed extensive growth of Arthrobacter sp. on the polymeric surface. The immobilized microorganism was able to actively degrade a 10% mixture of pentane, allowing us to obtain a bioconversion yield of 90% after 36h. Moreover, in repeated-batch operations, immobilized Arthrobacter sp. cells were able to maintain 85–95% pentane degradation during a 2month period. Our results suggest that this type of bioreactor could be used in pentane environmental decontamination.

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