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Methanolysis of Poly(lactic Acid) Using Catalyst Mixtures and the Kinetics of Methyl Lactate Production

Polylactic acid (PLA) is a leading bioplastic of which the market share is predicted to increase in the future; its growing production capacity means its end-of-life treatment is becoming increasingly important. One beneficial disposal route for PLA is its chemical recycling via alcoholysis. The alcoholysis of PLA leads to the generation of value-added products alkyl lactates; this route also has potential for a circular economy. In this work, PLA was chemically recycled via methanolysis to generate methyl lactate (MeLa). Four commercially available catalysts were investigated: zinc acetate dihydrate (Zn(OAc)2), magnesium acetate tetrahydrate (Mg(OAc)2), 4-(dimethylamino)pyridine (DMAP), and triazabicyclodecene (TBD). Dual catalyst experiments displayed an increase in reactivity when Zn(OAc)2 was paired with TBD or DMAP, or when Mg(OAc)2 was paired with TBD. Zn(OAc)2 coupled with TBD displayed the greatest reactivity. Out of the single catalyst reactions, Zn(OAc)2 exhibited the highest activity: a higher mol% was found to increase reaction rate but plateaued at 4 mol%, and a higher equivalent of methanol was found to increase the reaction rate, but plateaued at 17 equivalents. PLA methanolysis was modelled as a two-step reversible reaction; the activation energies were estimated at: Ea1 = 25.23 kJ∙mol−1, Ea2 = 34.16 kJ∙mol−1 and Ea-2 = 47.93 kJ∙mol−1.

Publication date: 26/04/2022

Author: Fabio M. Lamberti

Reference: doi: 10.3390/polym14091763

MDPI (polymers)


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.