On November 16, 2020, news provider Sustainable Plastics released an interview with a professor from Kumho National Institute of Technology in South Korea, Shi-Qing Wang, about his latest research regarding a new, more thermally resistant form of polylactic acid (PLA) plastic.

Even though PLA represents the most widely used biodegradable biobased polymer, its low resistance to heat (around 140 °F or 60°C) puts a limit to current fields of application, especially hot food packaging and disposable containers. PLA that has been in contact with e.g. boiling water becomes opaque and brittle or even collapses. However, a prototype made from specially treated PLA developed in Wang’s lab reportedly results in a clear, tough, and heat resistant cup. In addition to its higher heat resistance, the new form of PLA is also potentially more easily biodegradable, according to Wang.

The new material is being seen as offering great potential to drive growth and application expansion in the PLA market, which could also lead to a price drop for PLA products.

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Karen Laird (November 16, 2020). “Polymer researcher develops tough, flexible PLA that withstands boiling water.” Sustainable Plastics