February 1, 2018 – A novel method developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory creates supertough renewable plastic with improved manufacturability. Working with polylactic acid, a biobased plastic often used in packaging, textiles, biomedical implants and 3D printing, the research team added tiny amounts of silicon-based materials called silanes to design a new polymer. “Our fast, scalable approach makes a new form of PLA that is 10 times tougher without sacrificing strength or stiffness,” said ORNL’s Soydan Ozcan. “This could broaden applications where polymer toughness is critical.” The research team detailed the underlying chemical reactions in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering. The team plans to tailor the new polymer for additive manufacturing and packaging.