AIMPLAS, Technological Institute of Plastics, has completed its participation in the European project InnOREX. The main novelty in the process of obtaining PLA developed in the InnoREX project is the use of an extruder as a reactor to produce polylactic acid (PLA) from lactide.
This new technology makes it possible to dispense with metallic catalysts and use alternative energies to improve the kinetics of the reaction, as well as make an online measurement of the viscosity of the material during the process.
An extensive study has been carried out on how the final properties of the biopolymer are modified with the addition of additives and / or fillers, where it has been possible to obtain a modified PLA that is more flexible and 200% more resistant to impact than the conventional one.
Thanks to these improvements in its properties, it has been proven that the new material can be used in the manufacture of food packaging by injection and thermoforming in which PLA can replace polypropylene. In addition, the elimination of metallic particles in the process will mean an environmental improvement and for the safety of workers, as well as an opportunity for the application of these biopolymers in new sectors such as biomedicine.
After many months of research, it has been possible to synthesize a new environmentally friendly organic catalyst to be able to catalyze the polymerization of lactide, achieving a robust process of high conversions to obtain a PLA of high molecular weight and good polydispersity of high optical purity.
AIMPLAS has participated in the European InnOREX project together with 11 other European companies and technology centers under the coordination of the German Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology. The project has received funding from the Seventh Framework Program under contract number 309802 and during its 42 months of duration, the multinationals ROQUETTE and HUHTAMAKI have participated as observers.