Submitted to: American Chemical Society Symposium Series
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: September 28, 2012
Publication Date: November 20, 2012
Citation: Cheng, H.N. 2012. An overview of degradable polymers. In: Khemani, K., et al., editors. Degradable Polymers and Materials: Principles and Practice. 2nd. edition. Washington, DC:American Chemical Society Symposium Series. p. xiii-xiv.
Interpretive Summary: Degradable polymeric systems are increasingly being used as “green” alternatives to traditional polymers. Many degradable polymers have been commercialized, and more are expected in the future. These include poly (lactic acid), poly (glycolic acid), polycaprolactone, poly (hydroxyalkanoates), starch-based materials, and cellulosic derivatives. There are active ongoing R&D activities in industry and academia on these and other degradable polymers.
A book on degradable polymers is being edited by K. Khemani and C. Scholz, which will include articles by many leading researchers. The current author has been invited to write an overview at the beginning of the book, providing a list of major degradable polymers being studied or commercialized, the mechanisms involved, the major application areas, and some recent books and review articles. It serves as a capsule summary of this field, which may be particularly useful for people new to the field.
Many degradable polymers are being investigated for research purpose or for possible commercial use. This overview provides a listing of the more important degradable polymers and their mechanisms of action. Some application areas, particularly in packaging, housewares, personal care, biomaterials, pharmaceuticals and agriculture, are also listed. The key to successful applications is the cost/performance of these polymers relative to available alternatives.