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Commercial debut for a new PLA-production process

By Gerald Ondrey |

To reduce dependency on petroleum-based plastics, thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions AG (Essen, Germany; www.thyssenkrupp-industrial-solutions.com) has developed a new manufacturing process for producing the biopolymer polylactide (PLA). The company is now building the first commercial plant based on its patented PLA neo technology in Changchun, China, for COFCO Corp. (Beijing, China; www.cofcoagri.com). The new plant will produce around 10,000 metric tons per year (m.t./yr) of PLA, and is scheduled for commissioning in the first quarter of 2018. In the PLA neo process (flowsheet), lactic acid (LA) is first concentrated to remove residual water. The monomer lactide is then purified by a patented distillation technology, using dividing-wall columns. The subsequent ring-opening polymerization takes place using a combination of a continuous stirred-tank reactor (CSTR) and an efficient plug-flow reactor. Before pelletizing, the polymer melt is stabilized and the remaining lactide removed. A very low residual monomer content is achieved due to Uhde Inventa-Fischer’s (UIF; a subsidiary of thyssenkrupp; Berlin) proprietary PLA stabilization technology, combined with UIF’S unique one-step demonomerization technology. Because feedstock…
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