Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA)

pla chemical formula

Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA) is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch (in the United States), tapioca roots, chips or starch (mostly in Asia), or sugarcane (in the rest of the world). In 2010, PLA was the second most important bioplastic of the world in regard to consumption volume. The name “poly(lactic acid)” does not comply with IUPAC standard nomenclature, and is potentially ambiguous or confusing, because PLA is not a polyacid (polyelectrolyte), but rather a polyester.

pla infographic

PLA was discovered in the 1920s by Wallace Corothers  the scientist who invented nylon, but it never had been successfully commercialized on a large scale.

Polylactic Acid (PLA) is a bioplastic made from lactic acid and is used in the food industry to package sensitive food products. However, PLA is too fragile and is not compatible with many packaging manufacturing processes. Therefore it should be strengthen with additives.

Anecdote

According to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC Standard), the name polyactic acid is not compliant to their nomenclature as PLA is not a polyacid but rather a polyester.

Synonims

  • Polylactic acid
  • Polylactide
  • PLA

The largest PLA producers are:

  • NatureWorks
  • WeforYou
  • Evonik
  • Corbion Purac (who became Total Corbion)

PLA Applications

  • Mulch Films

pla-application-mulch-films.jpg

  • Cups

Pla application cups

  • Tea bags

pla application tea bags

Biocompatible

PLA is biocompatible and makes it perfect choice for medical implants intended to be absorbed by the body.

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