A single-step process for the preparation of highly pure alkyl esters used in making lactic acid poly lactic acid

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Background: Highly pure alkyl esters especially methyl lactate have a very important and wide range of applications at an industrial level. The products formed in conventional processes are impure with residues of sodium sulphate and are corrosive; separation processes are expensive and energy intensive. In most of the processes alkali metal is wasted in its sulfate form- cannot be recycled. Technology Description: NCL’s process uses alkali metal carboxylate salts to convert to its respective pure alkyl esters by a single direct esterification step. Alkali metal salts used are prepared from natural sources. This process results in alkyl esters of very high purity (99.5-99.8%). The use of mineral acid is eliminated in this process – hence no undesired sulfate side products are generated and is less acidic in comparison with traditional methods. The resulting methyl lactate can be hydrolyzed to get pure lactic acid. Market Potential: The global market for polylactic acid (PLA) has been projected to grow from $1.2 billion in 2010 to $3.8 billion in 2016 at a CAGR of 18.7%. PLA being a biodegradable plastic is increasingly being used in eco-friendly packaging – hence providing growth potential. The US biodegradable plastic market is estimated to be around 350 million pounds and is expected to grow 15.5% annually with PLA and polyesters as the fastest growing market segment. Lactic acid consumption on the other hand will continue to increase at about 7% PA from 2008 to 2013 at a global level. Applications: (1) Methyl lactate is used in pharmaceuticals (2) Other applications - Lactic acid is also used to produce poly lactic acid – which is a biocompatible and biodegradable polymer (hence with applications in packaging biomedicine etc.) Technology Status: Demonstrated at the lab scale; On the lookout for potential partners for spin-off/licensing Patent Status: Application filed - Indian #- 1842/DEL/2009 PCT #- IB2010/002203


(1) The products are of extremely high purity (2) Pollution free process (by avoiding sulfate side-products) (3) The byproducts (the corresponding carbonate salts) and the un-reacted carbon dioxide and alcohol can be recycled and reused in the process again –hence reducing cost

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Application filed - Indian #- 1842/DEL/2009 PCT #- IB2010/002203