Poly Lactic Acid (PLA)

PLA is the most promising biopolymer based on renewable feedstock, with global capacity expected to grow from 0.1 Mta today to 2 Mta over the next few years. In cooperation with Purac, Sulzer has developed a new process to convert lactides to PLA. This is available as a complete, skid-mounted unit.


Biodegradable polymers based on renewable feedstock have started to replace conventional polymers produced from fossil fuel. Sulzer now offers a complete plant solution for the PLA production process, which was jointly developed with Purac. Lactide monomer is polymerized in a continuous, fully integrated process using Sulzer's proprietary SMR technology and equipment.

This state-of-the-art PLA production technology has many advantages compared to standard technologies: 

  • Highly efficient polymerization process using static mixer technology 
  • Fast product transitions between different PLA grades due to short residence time 
  • Operational flexibility to produce different PLA grades with different molecular weights 
  • Compact-sized plants 
  • Straight-forward scalability to bigger plant sizes of up to 100 kt/a 
  • Low maintenance costs due to installation of mainly static equipment

Sulzer’s own 1 000 t/a PLA production unit will come on-stream early 2012. This unit will produce various customer-specific grades and provide clients with the option to obtain larger quantities of sample material for their own in-house evaluation and product development. The main applications for PLA are packaging, electrical housings, fibers and materials resistant to temperatures up to 200°C.

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