Polymers and plastics are used in nearly everything we touch every day. These materials deliver a huge diversity of performance properties that are required for many different market areas. Polymer chemists are continually developing new polymer materials to address these performance needs. One relatively new area for polymer development is to use renewable resources as feedstock to build the polymer backbone. The use of renewable resources reduces the dependence on petroleum-based feedstocks and results in a ‘green’ material. The polymers discussed here are based on the polymerization of lactides, a diester formed from lactic acid.
As new polymers are developed, the polymer chemist relies on data from a variety of different analytical tools to make decisions about the chemistry in the new polymer. Analytical data can be produced that describe both the chemical structure of the polymer, and the physical properties of the polymer. Combining these data streams enables the development of structure-property relationships. Chemists can utilize these structure-property relationships to understand how changes to one portion of the chemical structure impact the performance attributes of the ensuing material.