Polylactic acid, also known as poly(lactic acid) or polylactide (PLA), is a thermoplastic polyester with backbone formula (C
3
H
4
O
2
)
n
or [–C(CH
3
)HC(=O)O–]
n
, formally obtained by condensation of lactic acid C(CH
3
)(OH)HCOOH
with loss of water (hence its name). It can also be prepared by ring-opening polymerization of lactide [–C(CH
3
)HC(=O)O–]
2
, the cyclic dimer of the basic repeating unit.

PLA has become a popular material due to it being economically produced from renewable resources. In 2021, PLA had the highest consumption volume of any bioplastic of the world, although it is still not a commodity polymer. Its widespread application has been hindered by numerous physical and processing shortcomings. PLA is the most widely used plastic filament material in 3D printing. Its low melting point, high strength, low thermal expansion, good layer adhesion, and high heat resistance when annealed make it an ideal material for this purpose. Without annealing, however, PLA has the lowest heat resistance of the common 3D printing plastics.

Although the name "polylactic acid" is widely used, it does not comply with IUPAC standard nomenclature, which is "poly(lactic acid)". The name "polylactic acid" is potentially ambiguous or confusing, because PLA is not a polyacid (polyelectrolyte), but rather a polyester.

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Published 2018
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