Journal of Polymers and the Environment

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 1903–1919 | Cite as

Comparative Investigations on Optimum Polymerization Conditions for the Synthesis of a Sustainable Poly(Lactic Acid)

  • Mustafa Abu Ghalia
  • Yaser Dahman
Original Paper


The development of synthetic biodegradable polymers using solvent free polymerization has a unique potential to be used as sustainable polymers in biomedical applications. The aim of this work was to synthesize and characterize a sustainable class of poly(lactic acid) (PLA) under different operating conditions via direct polycondensation of lactic acid (LA). Several parameters were tested including the absence of solvents and catalysts on the polymerization, in addition to polymerization temperature and time. Polymerization conditions were evaluated using response surface method (RSM) to optimize the impact of temperature, time, and catalyst. Results showed that molecular weight (Mw) of PLA increased with increasing polymerization time. Highest Mw of 28.4 kD with relatively a broad polydispersity 1.9 was achieved at polymerization temperature 170 °C at 24 h in the free solvent polymerization. This led to a relevant inherent viscosity of 0.37 dl/g. FTIR spectra exhibited a disappearance of the characteristic peak of the hydroxyl group in LA at 3482 cm−1 by increasing the intensity of carbonyl group. The 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) exhibited the main chain at 5.22 ppm and the signal of methyl proton at 1.61 ppm as well as a signal at 4.33 and 1.5 assigned to the methane proton next to the terminal hydroxyl group and carboxyl group respectively. Meanwhile, the PLA synthesized with a catalyst [Sn(Oct)2] in a free solvent demonstrated comparatively high thermal transition properties of glass transition, melting, and crystallinity temperatures of 48, 106, and 158 °C, respectively. These results are of significant interest to further expand the use of PLA in biomedical applications.


Poly(lactic acid) Sustainable polymer Solvent-free polymerization Optimum polymerization conditions 



Authors would like to acknowledge financial support from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical EngineeringRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada

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