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What’s Happening in Bioplastics Development!

Donald Rosato – Aug 30, 2019

TAGS:  Green and Bioplastics    

Bioplastics make up around one percent of the more than 300 million tons of plastics produced every year. The bioplastics market is, however, growing at a healthy rate and ever more sophisticated biopolymers continue to emerge.

Biobased polyesters such as PLA (PolyLactic Acid) represent a major slice of the compostable bioplastics market.

Nova Institute Fast Growth Biopolymers with No Petroleum Equivalents Growth Pattern
Nova Institute Fast Growth Biopolymers with No Petroleum Equivalents Growth Pattern

Let’s explore more about, the latest research developments in PolyLactic Acid (PLA) as well as PLA additives to achieve new higher performance bioplastic resins and compounds…


1.  PLA-based Foam as a PS Alternative


The IKT Institute of Polymer Technology at the University of Stuttgart in Germany is working on this PLA foaming technology, together with the Department for Polymer Engineering at the University of Bayreuth. By using a suitable modification, researchers have created a PLA foam with properties comparable to those of PolyStyrene (PS).
IKT Polymer Structure Image of a Modified and Foamed PLA
IKT Polymer Structure Image of a Modified and Foamed PLA


The focus of this research is to investigate the influence of different modifiers and the molecular properties of PLA on:

  • Foaming behavior and
  • Foam quality

The research team is working with different modifiers, which it will not disclose at present. These modifiers are said to act in a physical or chemical manner during the compounding process. IKT’s foamed PLA polymer, with its competitive system costs, is considered to be a promising alternative to polystyrene in packaging foams.


2.  Stereocomplex PLA Compounds by Total Corbion PLA


Total Corbion PLA has commercialized what it described as a novel technology that can create full stereocomplex PLA in a broad range of industrial applications. This will enable PLA applications to withstand temperatures up to 200°C heat deflection temperature.
Total Corbion High Heat PLA Resin Performance Fit
Total Corbion High Heat PLA Resin Performance Fit


Glass fiber reinforced stereocomplex PLA is also currently available. The technology enables stereocomplex PLA, a material with long, regularly interlocking polymer chains that results in higher heat resistance than standard PLA. This breakthrough in PLA temperature resistance unlocks a range of possible new applications, and provides a biobased replacement for PolyButylene Terephthalate (PBT) & PolyAmide (PA, nylon) glass fiber reinforced products.

Injection-molded applications for under-the-hood automotive components can now be made from glass fiber reinforced stereocomplex PLA, offering:

  • Higher biobased content, and
  • Reduced carbon footprint

Total Corbion PLA is also targeting aerospace, electronics, home appliances, marine and construction markets.


3.  Sukano’s New Additive Variants for Compound Masterbatches


Switzerland’s Sukano, a specialty additives supplier, has developed several new additive variants for use in compound masterbatches namely:

  • Transparent and opaque impact modifiers,
  • Transparent slips/antiblocks,
  • Nucleating agents for thermoformable PLA sheet,
  • Internal mold release and processing aid for molding, and
  • Reactive chain extender system to improve Inherent Viscosity (IV) when recycling PLA.

Sukano PLA mr S533 Additive Lowers Peak Demolding Force (L) and Improves Spiral Flow Length (R) in PLA Molding Grade
Sukano PLA mr S533 Additive Lowers Peak Demolding Force (L)
and Improves Spiral Flow Length (R) in PLA Molding Grade


4.  PLA/PBS Bioplastic Blends by PTT MCC Biochem


Delving further, research in PolyLactic Acid (PLA)/PolyButylene Succinate (PBS) bioplastic blends is advancing rapidly. PTT MCC Biochem Company in Thailand, which is partly owned by Mitsubishi Chemical, is the only manufacturer of bio-based polybutylene succinate, which it calls BioPBS. PTT MCC Biochem has been working with specialty compounder Arctic Biomaterials who in turn has selected standard PLAs for the blend compounds.

PTT MCC Biochem’s BioPBS/PLA Blend HDT and Crystallinity Enhancements
PTT MCC Biochem’s BioPBS/PLA Blend HDT and Crystallinity Enhancements

With increasing BioPBS content in a blend with PLA, the level of crystallinity increases rapidly after the addition rate rises above 20%, hitting 50%, before it virtually plateaus, and hitting a maximum at an addition rate of 80%. Additionally, when using 60% of BioPBS and more, Heat Deflection Temperature (HDT) sharply increases to almost 100°C. PLA/BioPBS blends are being targeted for applications such as:

  • Housewares,
  • Automotive,
  • Electronics, and
  • Healthcare

It is already used in coffee capsules and disposable tableware. 


5.  PLA Fibers with Pyrethrum (DEET) by OSU


Finally, US-based Ohio State University (OSU) researchers have studied how extruded PLA fibers can be filled with insecticide in order to repel insects. Pyrethrum (DEET) insecticide was selected for use with the PLA fibers. Direct fiber extrusion and fiber spraying application techniques were used.
OSU PLA Fibers with Pyrethrum Has a Proven Insecticide Effect Against Mosquitos
OSU PLA Fibers with Pyrethrum Has a Proven Insecticide Effect Against Mosquitos

PLA fibers sprayed with pyrethrum insecticide proved to be the most effective, followed by PLA extruded fiber with pyrethrum. It was determined that process heat degrading loss of active natural pyrethrum in the extrusion process was the differentiating factor.


Bioplastics Professionals: Stay Alert!


Identify new opportunities with bioplastics to focus your R&D on right projects with a structured review of game-changing innovations (bio-based materials & future trends...). Join the course: Bioplastic Tour: Innovations & Trends (13th Edition) by Donald Rosato today:

Bioplastic Innovations & Trends


Commercially Available PolyLactic Acid (PLA) Grades





» Also Read: Bioplastic Advances Closing the Performance Gap!



1 Comments on "What’s Happening in Bioplastics Development!"
GOURDON B Sep 19, 2019
Very good update about BIOPOLYMERS. Thanks for this synthesis. and the foreseeing in the near future. Bernard Gourdon

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