A Monumental Milestone

Purac positioned to become premier global supplier of biobased lactide monomers
By Bryan Sims | April 27, 2012

Producing lactide monomers for polylactic acid resins derived from feedstocks such as corn starch, tapioca starch or cane sugar isn’t a new undertaking for Purac. In February, the Dutch-based company, a subsidiary of global bakery ingredients supplier CSM, successfully started up a new 75,000 metric ton per year lactide production facility at an existing Purac site in Thailand, further validating Purac’s established position as a leading global supplier of its trademarked Puralact lactide monomers, which can be used to produce bioPLA-based resins for various types of bioplastics.

“The successful start up of our 75,000 metric ton per year lactide plant marks another milestone in Purac’s commitment to the development of the PLA market,” says Jeroen Jonker, vice president of bioplastics for Purac. “We are now able to supply monomers that can be transformed into high-performance PLA while providing the scale and security of supply as required by the end use markets.”

Purac notes that the new plant will enable Purac to meet current demand levels from its committed commercial partners, such as Netherlands-based Synbra, while accelerating market development in a broad segment of plastics such as packaging, foam and fiber industries.

According to Purac, several batches of its Puralact D and L-based lactide building blocks have already been produced and physical deliveries to customers are scheduled to start this year. The company says that PLA polymers made from the company’s Puralact L and D monomers aim at gaining a significant share of the plastics market, which should enable its partners to produce PLA with application temperatures up to 180 degrees Celsius (266 degrees Fahrenheit).

PLA homopolymer resin produced from Purac’s stereochemically pure L-lactide has recently been tested and validated in a range of high-end applications, including fiber spinning. In a technical performance comparison between a regular commercial PLA fiber grade and a comparable Puralact L-based PLLA homopolymer, Purac’s PLLA homopolymer yielded fully drawn yarn with excellent mechanical and thermal properties due to the PLLA hompolymer’s significantly higher melting point. Fast crystallization and high levels of crystallinity of the PLLA, according to the company, provide important benefits to physical properties of fibers and fabrics.

“Based on our proprietary technology we have demonstrated the benefits of Purac’s PLA building blocks in demanding applications in the packaging, foam, fiber and consumer products industries,” says Francois de Bie, marketing director of bioplastics for Purac.

—Bryan Sims