In Denmark, a new EU-funded project, SinFonia, will come up with a more sustainable alternative to the current production of fluorinated products by engineering the robust bacterium Pseudomonas putida as a cell factory to make fluorinated polymers.
The project aims at producing fluorinated compounds in bacteria with metabolic engineering, circumventing the chemical reactions. Using the approach proposed in SinFonia opens the possibility of controlled fluorination of carbon structures within living cell factories.
A big challenge going forward will be to design and construct efficient fluorination pathways in order to make a cell factory that is able to biologically produce fluoropolymers, with uses as self-cleaning surfaces and low-surface-energy coatings, for instance in electronic components.
This will nevertheless not be an easy task since fluorine is not a natural part of the biochemistry of the cells. Thus, it will be necessary to couple the activity of the synthetic fluorination pathway with essential metabolic functions in the cell to make it ‘addict’ to fluorine.
So far, fluoropolymers are not produced by engineered bacteria and they can only be obtained by complex chemical reactions.