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DECTRIS helps clean up the oceans

A bespoke camera made by the Swiss manufacturer DECTRIS has critically helped the structure determination of an enzyme that feeds on PET. Millions of bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate, PET for short, are made for single use every day.

While some countries reach recycling rates of above 80%, less than half of all PET bottles are recycled worldwide. The rest enters the environment where it can remain for decades, accumulating in huge oceanic gyres that are one of the grave ecological problems of our time.

A team of researchers from England, Brazil and the US has now determined the atomic structure of an enzyme known to break down PET. The data were collected on a customer-specific X-ray detector made by the Swiss manufacturer DECTRIS and installed at the synchrotron Diamond Light Source. Based on the structure, the scientists were able to increase the activity of the enzyme for a more efficient degradation of PET. The modified enzyme shows considerable potential for the biotechnological removal of plastic waste.

DECTRIS detectors are high-performance X-ray cameras that measure X-rays diffracted on crystals to permit the determination of atomic structures of protein complexes.

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