Biomaterials manufacturer NatureWorks is currently working on a project to improve the efficiency of lactide monomer purification at its polylactic acid (PLA) manufacturing plant in Blair, NE, the company announced in a release this week.
The project will expand the availability of the firm’s Ingeo (PLA) biomaterials portfolio by 10% and support the company’s growth in markets that are using sustainable, low-carbon materials, including 3D printing, nonwoven hygiene masks, teabags, and coated paper food serviceware.
“The market continues to rapidly evolve due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the undiminished demand for sustainable, bio-based alternatives to petrochemical-based plastics,” said Rich Altice, president and chief executive officer of NatureWorks, in a statement. “For NatureWorks to satisfy this unprecedented demand, this purification technology is one of the many additional capital improvements we are actively working on at our facility in Blair. At the same time, we continue to pursue a potential future second manufacturing site outside the US to serve our growing international markets.”
PLA is produced with a multi-step process. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are processed into long-chain sugar molecules. Dextrose produced from the molecules is turned into lactic acid with fermentation before a final two-step process to convert it to the monomer lactide.