Friday, September 17, 2010


1. PLA - Poly Lactic Acid:

Poly(lactic acid) or polylactide (PLA) is a biodegradable, thermoplastic, aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch (in the United States) or sugarcanes (in the rest of world). Although PLA has been known for more than a century, it has only been of commercial interest in recent years, in light of its biodegradability. The name "polylactic acid" is to be used with caution, not complying to standard nomenclatures (such as IUPAC) and potentially leading to ambiguity (PLA is not a polyacid (polyelectrolyte), but rather a polyester)


Bacterial fermentation is used to produce lactic acid from corn starch or cane sugar. However, lactic acid cannot be directly polymerized to a useful product, because each polymerization reaction generates one molecule of water, the presence of which degrades the forming polymer chain to the point that only very low molecular weights are observed. Instead, lactic acid is oligomerized and then catalytically dimerized to make the cyclic lactide monomer. Although dimerization also generates water, it can be separated prior to polymerization. PLA of high molecular weight is produced from the lactide monomer by ring-opening polymerization using most commonly a stannous octane catalyst, but for laboratory demonstrations tin(II) chloride is often employed. This mechanism does not generate additional water, and hence, a wide range of molecular weights is accessible.
Polymerization of a racemic mixture of L- and D-lactides usually leads to the synthesis of poly-DL-lactide (PDLLA) which is amorphous. Use of stereospecific catalysts can lead to heterotactic PLA which has been found to show crystallinity. The degree of crystallinity, and hence many important properties, is largely controlled by the ratio of D to L enantiomers used, and to a lesser extent on the type of catalyst used.


Due to the chiral nature of lactic acid, several distinct forms of polylactide exist: poly-L-lactide (PLLA) is the product resulting from polymerization of L,L-lactide (also known as L-lactide). PLLA has a crystallinity of around 37%, a glass transition temperature between 60-65 °C, a melting temperature between 173-178 °C and a tensile modulus between 2.7-16 GPa

PLA has similar mechanical properties to PTFE polymer, but has a significantly lower maximum continuous use temperature.

Polylactic acid can be processed like most thermoplastics into fiber (for example using conventional melt spinning processes) and film. The melting temperature of PLLA can be increased 40-50 °C and its heat deflection temperature can be increased from approximately 60°C to up to 190 °C by physically blending the polymer with PDLA (poly-D-lactide). PDLA and PLLA form a highly regular stereocomplex with increased crystallinity. The temperature stability is maximised when a 50:50 blend is used, but even at lower concentrations of 3-10% of PDLA, there is still a substantial improvement. In the latter case, PDLA acts as a nucleating agent, thereby increasing the crystallization rate. Biodegradation of PDLA is slower than for PLA due to the higher crystallinity of PDLA. PDLA has the useful property of being optically transparent.


Stereocomplex blends of PDLA and PLLA have a wide range of applications, such as woven shirts (ironability), microwavable trays, hot-fill applications and even engineering plastics (in this case, the stereocomplex is blended with a rubber-like polymer such as ABS). Such blends also have good form-stability and visual transparency, making them useful for low-end packaging applications. Progress in biotechnology has resulted in the development of commercial production of the D enantiomer form, something that was not possible until recently.

PLA is currently used in a number of biomedical applications, such as sutures, stents, dialysis media and drug delivery devices. It is also being evaluated as a material for tissue engineering. Because it is biodegradable, it can also be employed in the preparation of bioplastic, useful for producing loose-fill packaging, compost bags, food packaging, and disposable tableware. In the form of fibers and non-woven textiles, PLA also has many potential uses, for example as upholstery, disposable garments, awnings, feminine hygiene products, and nappies.

PLA has been used as the hydrophobic block of amphiphilic synthetic block copolymers used to form the vesicle membrane of polymersomes.

PLA is a sustainable alternative to petrochemical-derived products, since the lactides from which it is ultimately produced can be derived from the fermentation of agricultural by-products such as corn starch or other carbohydrate-rich substances like maize, sugar or wheat.

PLA is more expensive than many petroleum-derived commodity plastics, but its price has been falling as production increases. The demand for corn is growing, both due to the use of corn for bioethanol and for corn-dependent commodities, including PLA.

PLA has also been developed in the United Kingdom to serve as sandwich packaging.

PLA has also been used in France to serve as the binder in Isonat Nat’isol, an hemp fiber building insulation.

PLA is used for biodegradable and compostable disposable cups for cold beverages, the lining in cups for hot beverages, deli containers and clamshells for food packaging.


Cellophane is a thin, transparent sheet made of regenerated cellulose. Its low permeability to air, oils, greases, and bacteria makes it useful for food packaging. Cellophane is in many countries a registered trade mark of Innovia Films Ltd, Cumbria, UK


Cellulose from wood, cotton, hemp, or other sources is dissolved in alkali and carbon disulfide to make a solution called viscose, which is then extruded through a slit into a bath of dilute sulfuric acid and sodium sulfate to reconvert the viscose into cellulose. The film is then passed through several more baths, one to remove sulfur, one to bleach the film, and one to add glycerin to prevent the film from becoming brittle.

A similar process, using a hole (a spinneret) instead of a slit, is used to make a fibre called rayon. Chemically, cellophane, rayon and cellulose are polymers of glucose and contain the chemical elements carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.

Cellulose film has been manufactured continuously since the mid-1930s and is still used today. As well as packaging a variety of food items, there are also industrial applications, such as a base for such self-adhesive tapes as Sellotape and Scotch Tape, a semi-permeable membrane in a certain type of battery, as dialysis tubing (Visking tubing) and as a release agent in the manufacture of fibreglass and rubber products. The word "cellophane" has become genericized in the US, and is often used informally to refer to a wide variety of plastic film products, even those not made of cellulose. However, in the UK and in many other countries it is still a registered trademark and the property of Innovia Films Ltd.

Cellophane sales have dwindled since the 1960s due to use of alternative packaging options, and the fact that viscose is becoming less common because of the polluting effects of carbon disulfide and other by-products of the process used to make it. However, the fact that cellophane is 100% biodegradable has increased its popularity as a food wrapping. Cellophane is the most popular material for manufacturing cigar packaging; its permeability to moisture makes cellophane the perfect product for this application as cigars must be allowed to "breathe" while in storage.

When placed between two plane polarizing filters, cellophane produces prismatic colors due to its birefringent nature. Artists have used this effect to create stained glass-like creations that are kinetic and interactive.

Plastarch Material (PSM) is a biodegradable, thermoplastic resin. It is composed of starch combined with several other biodegradable materials. The starch is modified in order to obtain heat-resistant properties, making PSM one of few bioplastics capable of withstanding high temperatures. PSM began to be commercially available in 2005.

PSM is stable in the atmosphere, but biodegradable in compost, wet soil, fresh water, seawater, and activated sludge where microorganisms exist. It has a softening temperature of 257°F (125°C) and a melting temperature of 313°F (156°C).
It is also hygroscopic. The material has to be dried in a material dryer at 150°F (66°C) for five hours or 180°F (82°C) for three hours. For injection molding and extrusion the barrel temperatures should be at 340° +/- 10°F (171°C) with the nozzle/die at 360°F (182°C).
Due to how similar PSM is to other plastics (such as polypropylene and CPET), PSM can run on many existing thermoforming and injection molding lines. PSM is currently used for a wide variety of applications in the plastic market, such as food packaging and utensils, personal care items, plastic bags, temporary construction tubing, industrial foam packaging, industrial and agricultural film, window insulation, construction stakes, and horticulture planters.
Since PSM is derived from a renewable resource (corn), it has become an attractive alternative to petrochemical-derived products. Unlike plastic, PSM can also be disposed of through incineration, resulting in non-toxic smoke and a white residue which can be used as fertilizer.

4.Polycaprolactone (PCL)
 is a biodegradable polyester with a low melting point of around 60°C and a glass transition temperature of about −60°C. PCL is prepared by ring opening polymerization of ε-caprolactone using a catalyst such as stannous octanoate. The most common use of polycaprolactone is in the manufacture of speciality polyurethanes. Polycaprolactones impart good water, oil, solvent and chlorine resistance to the polyurethane produced.

This polymer is often used as an additive for resins to improve their processing characteristics and their end use properties (e.g., impact resistance). Being compatible with a range of other materials, PCL can be mixed with starch to lower its cost and increase biodegradability or it can be added as a polymeric plasticizer to PVC.
Polycaprolactone is also used for splinting, modeling, and as a feedstock for prototyping systems such as a RepRap, where it is used for Fused Filament Fabrication (similar to the Stratasys' Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM technique).
Biomedical applications:

PCL is degraded by hydrolysis of its ester linkages in physiological conditions (such as in the human body) and has therefore received a great deal of attention for use as an implantable biomaterial. In particular it is especially interesting for the preparation of long term implantable devices, owing to its degradation which is even slower than that of polylactide.
PCL is an Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved material that is used in the human body as (for example) a drug delivery device, suture (sold under the brand name Monocryl or generically), or adhesion barrier. It is being investigated as a scaffold for tissue repair via tissue engineering, GBR membrane. It has been used as the hydrophobic block of amphiphilic synthetic block copolymers used to form the vesicle membrane of polymersomes.
A variety of drugs have been encapsulated within PCL beads for controlled release and targeted drug delivery which have been peer reviewed
The major impurities in the medical grade are toluene (<890 ppm, usually about 100 ppm) and tin (<200ppm).
In odontology or dentistry (as composite named Resilon), it is used in root canal filling. It performs like gutta-percha, has the same handling properties, and for retreatment purposes may be softened with heat, or dissolved with solvents like chloroform. Similar to gutta-percha, there are master cones in all ISO sizes and accessory cones in different sizes available. The major difference between the polycaprolactone-based root canal filling material (Resilon and Real Seal) and gutta-percha is that the PCL-based material is biodegradable but the gutta-percha is not. There is lack of consensus in the expert dental community as to whether a resorbable root canal filling material, such as Resilon or Real Seal is desirable.

Hobbyist and Prototyping:

PCL also has many applications in the hobbyist market. Some brand names used in selling it to this market are Shapelock and Friendly Plastic in the US, and Polymorph in the UK. It has physical properties of a very tough, nylon-like plastic that melts to a putty-like consistency at only 60°C. PCL's specific heat and conductivity are low enough that it is not hard to handle at this temperature.

This makes it ideal for small-scale modeling, part fabrication, repair of plastic objects, and rapid prototyping where heat resistance is not needed. Though molten PCL readily sticks to many other plastics, if the surface is cooled, the stickiness can be minimized while still leaving the mass pliable.

5. Polyglycolide or Polyglycolic acid (PGA):

is a biodegradable, thermoplastic polymer and the simplest linear, aliphatic polyester. It can be prepared starting from glycolic acid by means of polycondensation or ring-opening polymerization. PGA has been known since 1954 as a tough fiber-forming polymer. Owing to its hydrolytic instability, however, its use has initially been limited. Currently polyglycolide and its copolymers (poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) with lactic acid, poly(glycolide-co-caprolactone) with ε-caprolactone, and poly (glycolide-co-trimethylene carbonate) with trimethylene carbonate) are widely used as a material for the synthesis of absorbable sutures and are being evaluated in the biomedical field


Polyglycolide can be obtained through several different processes starting with different materials:

1. polycondensation of glycolic acid;

2. ring-opening polymerization of glycolide;

3. solid-state polycondensation of halogenoacetates;

4. acid catalyzed reaction of carbon monoxide and formaldehyde

Polycondensation of glycolic acid is the simplest process available to prepare PGA, but it is not the most efficient because it yields a low molecular weight product. Briefly, the procedure is as follows: glycolic acid is heated at atmospheric pressure and a temperature of about 175-185°C is maintained until water ceases to distill. Subsequently, pressure is reduced to 150 mm Hg, still keeping the temperature unaltered for about two hours and the low MW polyglycolide is obtained.

The most common synthesis used to produce a high molecular weight form of the polymer is ring-opening polymerization of "glycolide", the cyclic diester of glycolic acid. Glycolide can be prepared by heating under reduced pressure low MW PGA, collecting the diester by means of distillation. Ring-opening polymerization of glycolide can be catalyzed using different catalysts, including antimony compounds, such as antimony trioxide or antimony trihalides, zinc compounds (zinc lactate) and tin compounds like stannous octoate (tin(II) 2-ethylhexanoate) or tin alkoxides. Stannous octoate is the most commonly used initiator, since it is approved by the FDA as a food stabilizer. Usage of other catalysts has been disclosed as well, among these are aluminum isopropoxide, calcium acetylacetonate, and several lanthanide alkoxides (e.g. yttrium isopropoxide).The procedure followed for ring-opening polymerization is briefly outlined: a catalytic amount of initiator is added to glycolide under a nitrogen atmosphere at a temperature of 195°C. The reaction is allowed to proceed for about two hours, then temperature is raised to 230°C for about half an hour. After solidification the resulting high MW polymer is collected

Another procedure consists in the thermally induced solid-state polycondensation of halogenoacetates with general formula X-—CH2COO-M+ (where M is a monovalent metal like sodium and X is a halogen like chlorine), resulting in the production of polyglycolide and small crystals of a salt. Polycondensation is carried out by heating an halogenoacetate, like sodium chloroacetate, at a temperature between 160-180°C, continuously passing nitrogen through the reaction vessel. During the reaction polyglycolide is formed along with sodium chloride which precipitates within the polymeric matrix; the salt can be conveniently removed by washing the product of the reaction with water.

PGA can also be obtained by reacting carbon monoxide, formaldehyde or one of its related compounds like paraformaldehyde or trioxane, in presence of an acidic catalyst. In a carbon monoxide atmosphere an autoclave is loaded with the catalyst (chlorosulfonic acid), dichloromethane and trioxane, then it is charged with carbon monoxide until aspecific pressure is reached; the reaction is stirred and allowed to proceed at a temperature of about 180°C for two hours. Upon completion the unreacted carbon monoxide is discharged and a mixture of low and high MW polyglycolide is collected

Physical properties:

Polyglycolide has a glass transition temperature between 35-40 °C and its melting point is reported to be in the range of 225-230 °C. PGA also exhibits an elevated degree of crystallinity, around 45-55%, thus resulting in insolubility in water. The solubility of this polyester is somewhat unique, in that its high molecular weight form is insoluble in almost all common organic solvents (acetone, dichloromethane, chloroform, ethyl acetate, tetrahydrofuran), while low molecular weight oligomers sufficiently differ in their physical properties to be more soluble. However, polyglycolide is soluble in highly fluorinated solvents like hexafluoroisopropanol (HFIP) and hexafluoroacetone sesquihydrate, that can be used to prepare solutions of the high MW polymer for melt spinning and film preparation. Fibers of PGA exhibit high strength and modulus (7 GPa) and are particularly stiff.

Polyglycolide is characterized by hydrolytic instability owing to the presence of the ester linkage in its backbone. The degradation process is erosive and appears to take place in two steps during which the polymer is converted back to its monomer glycolic acid: first water diffuses into the amorphous (non-crystalline) regions of the polymer matrix, cleaving the ester bonds; the second step starts after the amorphous regions have been eroded, leaving the crystalline portion of the polymer susceptible to hydrolytic attack. Upon collapse of the crystalline regions the polymer chain dissolves.

When exposed to physiological conditions, polyglycolide is degraded by random hydrolysis and apparently it is also broken down by certain enzymes, especially those with esterase activity. The degradation product, glycolic acid, is non toxic and it can enter the tricarboxylic acid cycle after which it is excreted as water and carbon dioxide. A part of the glycolic acid is also excreted by urine

Studies undergone using polyglycolide-made sutures have shown that the material loses half of its strength after two weeks and 100% after four weeks. The polymer is completely resorbed by the organism in a time frame of four to six months.


While known since 1954, PGA had found little use because of its ease of degradation when compared with other synthetic polymers. However in 1962 this polymer was used to develop the first synthetic absorbable suture which was marketed under the tradename of Dexon by the Davis & Geck subsidiary of the American Cyanamid Corporation. It is sold today as Surgicryl.
PGA suture is classified as a synthetic, absorbable, braided multifilament. It is coated with N-laurin and L-lysine, which render the thread extremely smooth, soft and safe for knotting. It is also coated with magnesium stearate and finally sterilized with ethylene oxide gas. It is naturally degraded in the body by hydrolysis and is absorbed as water-soluble monomers, completed between 60 and 90 days. Elderly, anemic and malnourished patients may absorb the suture more quickly. Its color is either violet or undyed and it is sold in sizes USP 6-0 (1 metric) to USP 2 (5 metric). It has the advantages of high initial tensile strength, smooth passage through tissue, easy handling, excellent knotting ability, and secure knot tying. It is commonly used for subcutaneous sutures, intracutaneous closures, abdominal and thoracic surgeries.

The traditional role of PGA as a biodegradable suture material has led to its evaluation in other biomedical fields. Implantable medical devices have been produced with PGA, including anastomosis rings, pins, rods, plates and screws. It has also been explored for tissue engineering or controlled drug delivery. Tissue engineering scaffolds made with polyglycolide have been produced following different approaches, but generally most of these are obtained through textile technologies in the form of non-woven meshes.


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