L- Lactic Acid
Lactic acid, also known as 2-hydroxypropionic acid is produced in most instances via biotechnology routs by using microorganisms in fermentation processes. Lactic acid has a chiral carbon atom and exists as two optically isomers, L-lactic acid and D-lactic acid. With the biological fermentative route it is possible to produce an optically pure product. BluCon Biotech GmbH produces L-lactic acid.
L-Lactic acid is being used in the food industry, as a building block for solvents or PLA in the chemical industry and in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products.
BluCon L-lactic acid results from bacterial fermentation. It is purified to meet the high quality requirements for polymerization to poly lactic acid (PLA).
Poly Lactic Acid
Poly lactic acid (PLA) is the most widely used biodegradable aliphatic polyester from renewable resources. As a plastic it can be applied in most packaging and other applications in which today fossil oil based plastics are used. It has the potential to replace these plastics. It reduces the consumption of fossil fuels and it has a much lower carbon footprint (lower CO2 emissions), as it is produced from biological feedstocks. Due to its biodegradability it also reduces the amount of waste that must be disposed of at landfills or burned in incinerators, or which is littered into the environment. In summary PLA has a very positive impact on the environment.
Raw PLA polymer like most plastics is adapted to specific applications by compounding with suitable additives or by co-polymerisation, or it is blended with other plastics (bioplastics or traditional plastics).
The high level of rigidity is one of the advantages of poly lactide plastic. This property allows production of transparent films, cups and pots; it can be processed on equipment presently used for fossil based plastics in the plastics processing industry.
Modified PLA types with better stability and rigidity at higher temperature are produced using additives or by combinations of L- and D-lactides (stereocomplexing). Combining PLA with other bioplastics a low water vapor barrier is created, which characteristics to “breathe” is very useful for the production of packaging materials for food like bread and vegetables.
PLA biodegradability has been tested under industrial composting conditions. Plastic bottles made from PLA completely disappear in 3 – 6 weeks, i.e. are degraded by compost microorganisms to CO2 and water. Degradability in free nature at ambient temperatures will take longer, but as a polyester made from L-lactic acids PLA will eventually disappear from the earth´s surface or the oceans, in sharp contrast to plastics like polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, and others.
Both PLA and PLA-blends are produced in granulate form, and in various compositions. In plastics converters granulates are used to manufacture packaging (cups, bowls, foils and food storage containers), textiles (t-shirts and furniture textiles), hygiene products (nappies), foils for agriculture and cutlery. Although often short-life products like beverage or yoghurt pots, fruit, vegetable and meat trays are produced PLA and PLA-blends have also the great potential for manufacturing of durable products. These are for example casings for mobile phones, desktop accessories, lipstick tubes and other.
First series application of plastics based on PLA is even seen in the automotive industry with the production of dashboards, door tread plates and others as examples.