Polyactic Acid

How is Polylactic Acid fabric made?

Polylactic Acid is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources. It is typically made from Corn starch, tapioca products or Sugar canes depending on the part of the world it is from.

Polylactic Acid Manufacture

Polylactic acid is commercially made in the USA and Japan. Corn is grown in fields and harvested. It is then delivered to the factories where it is processed to yield sugar. The sugar is then fermented by bacteria to form lactic acid. This lactic acid can be made into a plastic which is known as polylactic acid. This process is called polymerisation.

Polylactic acid is a bio-plastic substitute for synthetic petroleum based plastics. Its production will hopefully minimise the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. It is a carbon neutral product and emits no toxins when it is eventually incinerated at the end of its lifetime. The process of manufacturing polylactic acid uses 47% less non-renewable energy and releases 59% less greenhouse gases into the air than in the manufacture of regular plastics.

Polylactic acid fibres are spun under the same conditions as PET fabrics. They can either be made as staple or filament fibres so the yarns will differ depending which is used. These yarns can either be knitted or woven into fabrics, with no special requirements and the fabrics produced can be treated as any other fabrics. Special care should only be taken at the pressing stage.

Properties of Polylactic Acid Fabric

  • Biodegradable
  • Hydrophobic
  • Can withstand hot liquids
  • From a cheap and abundant sources
  • Annually renewable
  • Controlled Crimp
  • Smooth surface
  • Low moisture regain
  • Properties are broadly similar to that of regular PET fibres
  • Can be made as either filament of staple fibres
  • Good elasticity
  • Blends well with wool
  • Non flammable
  • Self-extinguishing
  • Good UV resistance
  • Excellent shape retention
  • Crease resistant
  • Good wicking
  • Highly resilient
  • Easy aftercare

End uses of Polylactic Acid

  • Biomedical applications such as Stitches, dialysis media and drug delivery devices
  • Bio-plastics
  • Packaging
  • Non-woven textiles
  • Upholstery
  • Disposable garments
  • Awnings
  • Diapers
  • Insulation
  • A possible replacement for synthetic plastics

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Written by Kelly Mitchell

Kelly Mitchell, extremely competent and reliable, she is currently in her third year at the University of Lincoln UK, studying Fashion. Kelly is responsible for the Fabrics, Fibers and Leathers sections of our Dictionary

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