Intermediate Innovation

NatureWorks to broaden biopolymer portfolio with new Ingeo lactide
By Bryan Sims | August 22, 2011

As part of a major capital investment at its Ingeo lactide and biopolymer production facility in Blair, Neb., Minnetonka, Minn.-based NatureWorks LLC will soon be the world’s first to offer in commercial volumes a high-purity, polymer-grade lactide rich in the stereoisomer meso-lactide.

Identified as Ingeo M700 lactide, the new material can be used as a chemical intermediate for a variety of applications such as for copolymers, amorphous oligomers and polymers, grafted substrates, resin additives/modifiers, adhesives, coatings, elastomers, surfactants, thermosets and solvents. Samples of the new polymers and lactide intermediates will be available in 2012 with commercial sales expected of Ingeo M700 slated for 2013. NatureWorks began offering L-lactide intermediates in 2010.

According to Manuel Natal, global segment leader for lactide derivatives at NatureWorks, until now several niche-focused producers have attempted to address the functionality requested by the market with what are described chemically as racemic lactides.

“Compared to these, the high-purity Ingeo M700 will be lower in cost, easier to process and an overall better alternative to high-priced racemic lactide, as well as L- and D-lactides, in a host of industrial applications,” Natal says.

A lower melting point, improved ester delivery, lower water content, less catalyst usage and lower reaction temperatures are several other significant advantages Ingeo M700 is expected to have over conventional racemic lactide.

NatureWorks’ family of Ingeo biopolymers are produced from starch such as dextrose with microorganisms that create lactic acid and then form long chain lactide monomers. Through polymerization, the chains form polylactide polymers, which are then pelletized. 

—Bryan Sims