Developing and testing new applications of versatile polylactic acid

Corbion Purac has been working on polylactic acid (PLA) bioplastic applications with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research for over a decade. This close collaboration has led to unrivalled in-depth knowledge on PLA processing and applications. Earlier this year, Corbion Purac transferred its PLA activities to the newly formed joint venture Total Corbion PLA, creating a new global technology leader in PLA and lactide monomers.

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is an independent research partner with considerable knowhow on the major conversion processes for PLA
Robert Haan, application specialist, Total Corbion PLA

“We provide a wide range of PLA resins, each with their own specific functional properties,” says Robert Haan, application specialist at Total Corbion PLA. “However, we aim to offer our customers much more than that. It is our intention to expand our markets by demonstrating the specific applications for which PLA can be used. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research helps us achieve this by developing and testing samples of end applications. We would like to offer our customers insight into the whole range of possibilities that PLA can offer, for example in terms of rigidity, impact resistance or compostability. In addition, a sample must be suitable for a given process technology, such as injection moulding or thermoforming. Thanks to the broad knowhow and expertise of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, we can offer our customers the right starting point for the further development of PLA no matter what their desired end application is.”

Test work in Biobased Products Innovation Plant

Robert Haan has worked at Corbion since 2007 and has been part of the partnership with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research since 2008. “Our cooperation has proceeded very smoothly for many years and I have other contacts who think the same way as our team. Moreover, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has state-of-the-art equipment: I estimate that 80 to 85% of our test needs can be met in its Biobased Products Innovation Plant or within its network. But, first and foremost, they are an independent research partner with considerable knowhow regarding the major conversion processes for PLA. We work under a periodic, hour-based framework, rather than drawing up separate contracts per project. This ensures that we always have research capacity available whilst minimising throughput times.”

Confident about PLA

Total Corbion PLA is a 50/50 joint venture between Total and Corbion launched in March 2017 which focuses on the production and marketing of PLA polymers. The company plans to start a new plant in Thailand with an annual production capacity of 75 kilotonnes of PLA in the second half of 2018 – an indication of how high confidence levels are. “The future of PLA is extremely promising and we fully intend to be a leading player in this market. We look forward to continued cooperation with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research in developing new PLA applications, testing PLA properties and ensuring that our materials comply with product claims.”