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Optimization of PLA/PLGA Molecular Weight and Structure to Suit Final Application Requirements

The biodegradable and biocompatible polymers, PLA and PLGA are used in many different applications including, amongst others, food packaging, farming materials, biomedical devices such as absorbable surgical thread and implants such as stents or drug release systems. 3D-printing is another application which benefits from the low melt processing temperature of PLA. Usually, PLA and PLGA are based on monomers from renewable sources, so are considered “green” polymers. By selecting different molecular weights, different ratios of lactic:glycolic acid and different molecular structures, some properties such as degradation or drug release rates can be tailored to meet application needs. GPC/SEC analysis is an ideal tool for monitoring samples during material synthesis, production of parts and in degradation studies.

Advanced multi-detector GPC/SEC can reveal far more information than just numbers for molecular mass averages. Combining the data from refractive index, light scattering and viscometer detectors also provides information about structure and solution properties.

In this application note, a selection of different PLA and PLGA polymer samples were analyzed on Malvern’s OMNISEC GPC/SEC system, which combines all the detectors described above.