Green Copolymers Based on Poly(Lactic Acid)—Short Review
Polylactic acid (PLA) is a biodegradable and biocompatible polymer that can be applied in the field of packaging and medicine. Its starting substrate is lactic acid and, on this account, PLA can also be considered an ecological material produced from renewable resources. Apart from several advantages, polylactic acid has drawbacks such as brittleness and relatively high glass transition and melting temperatures. However, copolymerization of PLA with other polymers improves PLA features, and a desirable material marked by preferable physical properties can be obtained. Presenting a detailed overview of the accounts on the PLA copolymerization accomplishments is the innovation of this paper. Scientific findings, examples of copolymers (including branched, star, grafted or block macromolecules), and its applications are discussed. As PLA copolymers can be potentially used in pharmaceutical and biomedical areas, the attention of this article is also placed on the advances present in this field of study. Moreover, the subject of PLA synthesis is described. Three methods are given: azeotropic dehydrative condensation, direct poly-condensation, and ring-opening polymerization (ROP), along with its mechanisms. The applied catalyst also has an impact on the end product and should be adequately selected depending on the intended use of the synthesized PLA. Different ways of using stannous octoate (Sn(Oct)2) and examples of the other inorganic and organic catalysts used in PLA synthesis are presented.