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Metal-catalyst-free Polymerization of PLA at Low Temperature

Ricoh developed technology that makes possible the polymerization of polylactic acid (PLA) at low temperatures without the use of a metal catalyst.

Metal-catalyst-free Polymerization of PLA at Low Temperature

image:Polylactic acid made through the use of Ricoh technology. Polylactic acid made through the use
of Ricoh technology.

In 2012, with the cooperation of Shizuoka University in Japan, Ricoh developed technology that makes possible the polymerization*1 of polylactic acid (PLA) at low temperatures without the use of a metal catalyst. Through the use of this technology, PLA — a bioplastic compound made from biomass (plant-derived) materials — can be produced using hyperbaric CO2 or supercritical*2 carbon dioxide and organic molecule catalysts. As this does not require the use of organic solvents or metal catalysts, PLA can be manufactured in a safe, high-quality and low-cost way. Since its uses are not limited to imaging equipment, this new technology is expected to spur the use of biomass resources in a wide variety of products.

  • *1Polymerization is the process whereby two or more small-molecule chemical compounds (whether of the same type of different types) are bonded chemically to form a single high molecule-weight compound.
  • *2Supercritical refers to a state where a material is held at or above its critical temperature and pressure. It is difficult to determine the state of a supercritical material, whether gas or liquid, as such materials can be diffused like a gas and dissolved like a liquid.

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