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A commercial debut for microwave-assisted polymerization

By Tetsuo Satoh |

A device for the mass production of lactic acid oligomers, polylactic acid (PLA) and other polymers has been developed by Japanese researchers from the Renewable Plastics Group of the Research Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Chemistry, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST; Tokyo; www.aist.go.jp), Glart Inc. (Kanagawa Prefecture; www.glart.co.jp), and Shikoku Instrumentation Co. (KagawaPrefecture; www.yonkei.co.jp), with partial funding from the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO; Kawasaki; www.nedo.go.jp). The unit, which utilizes microwaves instead of conventional electrical heaters, reduced the manufacturing time to nearly one tenth that required by conventional methods, requires less energy and generates consistent product with almost no byproducts, says AIST. AIST and Shikoku Instrumentation developed a reaction vessel in which microwaves are efficiently absorbed and a technology for handling highly viscous liquids. A 20-L reactor (300-mm dia., 400-mm tall) that can operate at temperatures up to 200°C and pressures to 400 Pa has been constructed and is capable of producing 20 kg per batch. In making PLA, an aqueous solution of lactic acid is simply irradiated…
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