Title

Optimization of Polystyrene Degradation by Tenebrio molitor

School Name

Center For Advanced Technical Studies

Grade Level

12th Grade

Presentation Topic

Environmental Science

Presentation Type

Non-Mentored

Abstract

Polystyrene currently cannot be decomposed by disposal in landfills or recycled in commercial plants because of its complex molecular structure. Annually, humans throw away over 21 million tons of polystyrene. Previous research done at Universities worldwide has found that Tenebrio Molitor (mealworms) can potentially digest polystyrene safely through a gut bacterium called Exiguobacterium sp. This project is based upon this previous research, but aims to optimize the rate and conditions under which mealworms thrive consume while consuming polystyrene. The main hypothesis for the project is: If the temperature is increased and the light intensity is decreased then mealworms will digest extruded polystyrene (XPS) material at a faster rate. Early studies performed on the mealworms found that the XPS type of polystyrene (architectural) was favored over expanded polystyrene (EPS) and also indicated that temperature does affect how fast the mealworms eat. Current experimental studies, based in part off of these prior studies, are being conducted with variations in temperature and light intensity in order to increase the rate at which mealworms consume XPS polystyrene. So far, the dark light conditions and a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius have shown a favorable preferred polystyrene consumption rate. Not only are the mealworms eating faster than any other previous trials, but the mealworms are also growing twice as fast in the dark. Project results to date indicate a potential to help decrease the amount of waste polystyrene in landfills and recycling centers. Additionally, these results could indicate a potential application in underdeveloped parts of the world with excess waste polystyrene because this solution is relatively cheap and easy to implement. The results from current trials and trials previously completed have shown that temperature and light variation both have a positive effect on the rate that the mealworms digest XPS polystyrene which is significant and promising to approach the problem presented by continued consumer use of polystyrene materials.

Location

Furman Hall 227

Start Date

3-28-2020 8:45 AM

Presentation Format

Oral Only

Group Project

No

COinS
 
Mar 28th, 8:45 AM

Optimization of Polystyrene Degradation by Tenebrio molitor

Furman Hall 227

Polystyrene currently cannot be decomposed by disposal in landfills or recycled in commercial plants because of its complex molecular structure. Annually, humans throw away over 21 million tons of polystyrene. Previous research done at Universities worldwide has found that Tenebrio Molitor (mealworms) can potentially digest polystyrene safely through a gut bacterium called Exiguobacterium sp. This project is based upon this previous research, but aims to optimize the rate and conditions under which mealworms thrive consume while consuming polystyrene. The main hypothesis for the project is: If the temperature is increased and the light intensity is decreased then mealworms will digest extruded polystyrene (XPS) material at a faster rate. Early studies performed on the mealworms found that the XPS type of polystyrene (architectural) was favored over expanded polystyrene (EPS) and also indicated that temperature does affect how fast the mealworms eat. Current experimental studies, based in part off of these prior studies, are being conducted with variations in temperature and light intensity in order to increase the rate at which mealworms consume XPS polystyrene. So far, the dark light conditions and a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius have shown a favorable preferred polystyrene consumption rate. Not only are the mealworms eating faster than any other previous trials, but the mealworms are also growing twice as fast in the dark. Project results to date indicate a potential to help decrease the amount of waste polystyrene in landfills and recycling centers. Additionally, these results could indicate a potential application in underdeveloped parts of the world with excess waste polystyrene because this solution is relatively cheap and easy to implement. The results from current trials and trials previously completed have shown that temperature and light variation both have a positive effect on the rate that the mealworms digest XPS polystyrene which is significant and promising to approach the problem presented by continued consumer use of polystyrene materials.