Degradation of Aliphatic Polyesters: Poly(lactic acid) and Poly(butylene succinate-co-adipate)

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Chemical Engineering

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Douglas E. Hirt

Committee Member

Dr. David A. Bruce

Committee Member

Dr. Christopher L. Kitchens

Committee Member

Dr. Philip J. Brown


People are becoming increasingly sensitive to the use of petroleum based polymers for disposable applications because of their effects on the environment. This has led to the extensive study of degradable polymers that have mechanical and physical properties similar to their petroleum based counterparts but can be fully composted at the end of their useful lifetime.

Poly(lactic acid) (PLA), a degradable thermoplastic polyester made from 100% renewable feedstock, has been studied extensively over the past 20 years for a variety of applications. In this body of work, the degradation of PLA fibers is examined using various environmental conditions. The effects of fiber diameter, temperature (37, 40,60, and 80 ºC), relative humidity (nitrogen purge or 100% RH), and pH (pH 5 or 7.4) of the degradation medium are investigated in terms of changes in crystallinity, total mass, and molecular weight for up to 90 days of aging.

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