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Depolymerization of Post-Consumer Polylactic Acid Products

David Grewell1,*, Gowrishankar Srinivasan1, Eric Cochran2

1 Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011
2 Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011

* Corresponding Author: email

Journal of Renewable Materials 2014, 2(3), 157-165.


Presented in this study is a novel recycling strategy for poly(lactic acid) (PLA) in which the depolymerization is rapidly promoted by the base-catalyzed hydrol-/alcohol-ysis of the terminal ester bonds under mild conditions. Post-consumer PLA water bottles were cut into approximately 6 x 2 mm plastic chips and heated to 50–60o C in water, ethanol, or methanol as the depolymerization medium. A variety of carbonate salts and alkaline metal oxides were screened as potential catalysts. High-power ultrasound was also investigated as a means to accelerate the PLA decomposition. Both mass loss and HPLC analysis of the treated suspensions showed that the conversion of PLA to lactic acid/lactic esters was achieved with yields over 90% utilizing either ultrasonics or a hot bath. It was found that the most rapid decomposition occurred in solution of sodium hydroxide in methanol at 50o C, in which maximum depolymerization was complete in 5 min. It was also seen that the degree of crystallinity affected the rate of depolymerization.


Cite This Article

Grewell, D., Srinivasan, G., Cochran, E. (2014). Depolymerization of Post-Consumer Polylactic Acid Products. Journal of Renewable Materials, 2(3), 157–165.

cc This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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