Scalable production of mechanically tunable block polymers from sugar

Mingyong Xiong, Deborah K. Schneiderman, Frank S. Bates, Marc A. Hillmyer, Kechun Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


Development of sustainable and biodegradable materials is essential for future growth of the chemical industry. For a renewable product to be commercially competitive, it must be economically viable on an industrial scale and possess properties akin or superior to existing petroleum-derived analogs. Few biobased polymers have met this formidable challenge. To address this challenge, we describe an efficient biobased route to the branched lactone, β-methyl-δ-valerolactone (βMδVL), which can be transformed into a rubbery (i.e., low glass transition temperature) polymer. We further demonstrate that block copolymerization of βMδVL and lactide leads to a new class of high-performance polyesters with tunable mechanical properties. Key features of this work include the creation of a total biosynthetic route to produce βMδVL, an efficient semisynthetic approach that employs high-yielding chemical reactions to transform mevalonate to βMδVL, and the use of controlled polymerization techniques to produce well-defined PLA-PβMδVL-PLA triblock polymers, where PLA stands for poly (lactide). This comprehensive strategy offers an economically viable approach to sustainable plastics and elastomers for a broad range of applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8357-8362
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 10 2014


  • Biobased production
  • Block copolymer
  • Mevalonate pathway
  • Rubbery polyester


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