Ingeo

Ingeo is the PLA Brand of Natureworks

Back in 1989, we had a big, crazy idea. What if we could turn greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into products? We got to work, looking to plants for inspiration. It took a lot of hard thinking and some real innovation, but today Ingeo polymers are valued for their unique properties and found in products from coffee capsules to electronics.

Where Ingeo Comes From

Nature looks at greenhouse gases – atmospheric carbon as a feedstock, a raw material. It’s what trees, plants, and huge structures like coral reefs, are built from. At NatureWorks, we’re doing the same thing – using our best technologies to turn carbon that’s in the atmosphere contributing to global warming, into a portfolio of performance Ingeo materials.

How we convert our atmospheric carbon feedstock into Ingeo matters, and we take a hard look at this in everything that we do. Currently, the first step in transforming atmospheric carbon into Ingeo involves using agricultural crops to sequester the carbon, fixing it as simple plant sugars through the process of photosynthesis. This rightfully brings up questions around feedstock sourcing: agricultural growing practices, food and biopolymers, and land use.

Performance materials made by transforming the right, abundant, local resources

At NatureWorks, we’re committed to feedstock diversification–to using the most abundant, locally available, and sustainable source of biobased carbon, wherever we produce. Equally, we’re committed to critically assessing and assuring the sustainability of each and every feedstock we use. We are cautious about automatically viewing each next generation of feedstock as inherently more sustainable than the previous one.

Whether it’s the first generation “bridging feedstock” we use today, industrially sourced corn, or whether it’s cutting-edge concepts for turning CO2 or CH4 directly into green building blocks – bypassing the agricultural step altogether, at NatureWorks, we believe it’s vital to assure the integrity of the sustainability of every feedstock we use.

How Ingeo is Made

Nature looks at greenhouse gases, like atmospheric carbon, as a feedstock, a raw material. It’s what trees, plants, and coral reefs, are built from. At NatureWorks, we’re doing the same thing – using our best technologies to turn greenhouse gases into a portfolio of polylactic acid (PLA) performance materials called Ingeo.

Our Process Starts with Greenhouse Gases

Nature looks at greenhouse gases, like atmospheric carbon, as a feedstock, a raw material. It’s what trees, plants, and coral reefs, are built from. At NatureWorks, we’re doing the same thing – using our best technologies to turn greenhouse gases into a portfolio of polylactic acid (PLA) performance materials called Ingeo.

Creating Lactic Acid, the Building Block of Ingeo

The plants are put through a milling process extracting the starch (glucose). Enzymes are added to convert the glucose to dextrose via a process called hydrolysis. Microorganisms then ferment this dextrose into lactic acid.

Transforming Lactic Acid to Lactide

A proprietary two-step process transforms lactic acid molecules into rings of lactide, which is a valuable chemical on its own and the core of our customizable platform of chemical intermediates.

Polymerizing Lactide into Ingeo PLA

In the process of polymerization, the lactide ring is opened and linked together to form the long chain of polylactide polymer we call Ingeo. We form this long chain of Ingeo PLA into pellets that are shipped around the world to our customers and partners who transform them into a wide-range of innovative products including coffee capsules, yogurt cups, baby wipes, and appliances.