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The term pre-polymer refers to a monomer or system of monomers that have been reacted to an intermediate molecular weight state. This material is capable of further polymerization by reactive groups to a fully cured high molecular weight state. As such, mixtures of reactive polymers with un-reacted monomers may also be referred to as pre-polymers. The term “pre-polymer” and “polymer precursor” may be interchanged.
Lactic acid as a polymer precursor
Two molecules of lactic acid can be dehydrated to lactide, a cyclic lactone. A variety of catalysts can polymerise lactide to either heterotactic or syndiotactic polylactide, which as biodegradable polyesters with valuable (inter alia) medical properties are currently attracting much attention.
Nowadays, lactic acid is used as a monomer for producing polylactic acid (PLA) which later has application as biodegradable plastic. This kind of plastic is a good option for substituting conventional plastic produced from petroleum oil because of low emission of carbon dioxide. The commonly used process in producing lactic acid is via fermentation, and later to obtain the polylactic acid, the polymerization process follows.