PLA (Poly Lactic Acid)
PLA is a polyester produced by fermentation under controlled conditions of a carbohydrate source like corn starch or sugarcane. Its building blocks can either be lactic acid or lactide monomers. They will later be polymerized into PLA.
Initially, corn goes through wet milling. Here’s were the starch gets separated. The starch is then mixed with acid or enzymes and heated. This process “breaks” starch into dextrose (D-glucose), or corn sugar. Finally, fermentation of glucose produces L-Lactic acid, which will be the basic constituent of PLA.
Two methods for manufacturing PLA plastic from lactic acid are applied. The first one uses lactide as an intermediate state, which results in greater molecular weight. The second method consists in the direct polymerization of lactic acid.
PLA can also be used as a decomposable packaging material, either cast, injection-molded, or spun.Cups and bags have been made from this material. In the form of a film, it shrinks upon heating, allowing it to be used in shrink tunnels. It is useful for producing loose-fill packaging, compost bags, food packaging, and disposable tableware. In the form of fibers and nonwoven fabrics, PLA also has many potential uses, for example as upholstery, disposable garments, awnings, feminine hygiene products, and diapers. Thanks to its bio-compatibility and biodegradability, PLA has also found ample interest as a polymeric scaffold for drug delivery purposes.