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The material selection platform
Plastics & Elastomers
The material selection platform
Plastics & Elastomers
Polylactic acid (PLA)

Popular Applications of Polylactic Acid

PLA shows excellent degradation behavior and versatility. This makes it one of the most promising biopolymers used today. Its biocompatible, renewable, and bio-based nature makes it a preferred choice for several applications.

PLA is now used in the packaging sector from a niche product in organic trade to premium packaging for branded goods. The high-performance grades come as excellent replacements for PS, PP, and ABS. They are gaining traction in more demanding applications. Several key areas of PLA applications include food contact materials, medical and healthcare, and more. Explore the complete range of PLA applications in detail.

Overview

Key Applications

Food contact packaging application


PLA is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved polymer for use as a food contact material. The common packaging applications of PLAs include:

  • containers and drinking cups,
  • sundae and salad cups,
  • overwraps and blister packages

It can also be used as a food packaging polymer for short-shelf life products such as fruit and vegetables.


Healthcare and medical industry


The biocompatibility and biodegradability of PLA allows its use in the healthcare and medical industry. It is used to manufacture tissue engineering scaffolds, delivery system materials, or covering membranes and different bioabsorbable medical implants. Due to its versatility, PLA has been investigated for:

  • Membrane applications — For example, wound covers, etc.
  • Implants and medical devices — For example, fixation rods, plates, pins, screws, sutures, etc.
  • Dermatological treatments — For example, facial lipoatrophy, scar rejuvenation, etc.


High-end structural applications


Biobased PLA and composites are new for automotive, electrical, and electronics applications. These composites show better tensile strength and impact characteristics. This makes them suitable for use in interior parts of automobiles or safety helmets.

Improved material properties enable PLA use in floor mats, pillar covers, door trim, front panels, and ceiling materials. PLA biocomposites are proposed for use in covering spare wheels or translucent roofs in hybrid concept vehicles.


However, there still are certain features that limit the commercialization of PLA in other structural applications.


Fibers and textiles industry


PLA is also suitable for textile fiber applications such as shirts, carpets, bedding, mattresses, sportswear, etc. This is due to its:

  • low moisture absorption,
  • low smoke generation capability,
  • good resistance to UV light

The polymer also has potential in mulch films and compostable garden waste bags, structural protective foams, insulation materials, etc.

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