Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS

Development of innovative biodegradable polylactic acid polymers

A combination of increased environmental concern, legislation such as the recent European Union (EU) Packaging Directive and the desire to find natural alternatives to petrochemical based products, has created a potential large market for lactic acid. This would be used as an intermediate for the production of biodegradable polymers, as is already occurring in the United States. This represents a unique opportunity for large scale industrial transformation of massive amounts of glucidic substrates from agro food by products (whey in particular) by fermentation. The purpose of this project is to evaluate the technology available and develop the complete chain from fermentation to final product. The work involves the following areas:
development of an integrated process for the production of lactic acid by fermentation of glucidic substrate coupled to a continuous separation technique;
improvement of the lactic acid purification by continuous esterification and distillation;
characterization of a new way to synthesise lactide from lactic esters;
a study of the polymerization of polylactic acid (PLA)-polymers, their physico-chemical properties and their processing behaviours;
assessment of the problem of filling, blending and alloying of new developed PLA-polymers.

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