Successful operation of Uhde Inventa-Fischer's PLA pilot plant lays the groundwork for industrial-scale plants

By Dr. Rainer Hagen, Product Manager, Uhde Inventa-Fischer

Berlin, (PresseBox) - The engineering company Uhde Inventa-Fischer has proven the potential of its selfdeveloped, patented polylactic acid (PLA) technology, PLAneo®, at its proprietary pilot plant following an operating phase of several months. The process enables tailored PLA types for a full range of applications to be manufactured as well as enabling the production of different PLA specialities.

The PLA pilot plant built by Uhde Inventa-Fischer in Guben, Germany, in 2010 has a production capacity of 500 tonnes of polymer granules a year. During the test operation the full functionality of the PLAneo® process was proven and the desired performance parameters were also achieved. The completely continuous process is perfectly suited to large-capacity industrial production plants. For the production of PLA commercially available lactic acid is used. This is converted to granules with a yield in excess of 95%.

The plant enables all common PLA types as well as a multitude of modified specialities to be produced. The full range of applications of the PLA process includes film and fibre types and masterbatch base polymers as well as specialities, such as PLA copolymers and stereocomplex PLA with an increased heat resistance.

As part of ThyssenKrupp Uhde GmbH, Uhde Inventa-Fischer not only supplies its proprietary PLA technology but also the lactic acid technology developed within the group from a single source. Uhde Inventa-Fischer thus covers the entire process from the agricultural feedstock and the lactic acid to the saleable granules. ThyssenKrupp Uhde is currently building a pilot plant for the production of lactic acid from glucose or saccharose in Leuna, Germany. The plant is due to come on-stream in the second quarter of 2012.

Uhde Inventa-Fischer GmbH

Numerous market and strategy studies have shown that bio-based polyesters such as PLA have a bright future. The market for PLA has been steadily growing for years and will soon be increasing by millions of tonnes a year. Unlike standard plastics, the use of PLA conserves fossil resources, such as petroleum, while cutting greenhouse CO2 emissions at the same time. The plastic also stands out for its biodegradability and very good recycling properties. The polymer-specific properties, such as its aroma and gas barrier, transparency and shine or twist effect, can be used functionally in a wide range of applications.

Uhde Inventa-Fischer is a leading engineering company located in Berlin, Germany, and Domat/Ems, Switzerland. Uhde Inventa-Fischer's scope of services includes the development, engineering and construction of industrial plants for the production of polyester, polyamides and polylactic acids. The development of the PLAneo® process has benefited from the experience gained during the construction of more than 400 production plants throughout the world. The company has belonged to ThyssenKrupp Uhde GmbH since 2004 and is thus part of ThyssenKrupp AG.

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