Sustainable polymers in the organic chemistry laboratory: Synthesis and characterization of a renewable polymer from δ-decalactone and l-lactide

Deborah K. Schneiderman, Chad Gilmer, Michael T. Wentzel, Mark T. Martello, Tomohiro Kubo, Jane E Wissinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations


The importance of green syntheses and sustainable polymers is highlighted in a new experiment developed for incorporation into the introductory organic chemistry laboratory curriculum. δ-Decalactone, a naturally occurring cyclic ester used by the food and flavor industry for its coconut fragrance and taste, is polymerized under acidic conditions with a diol initiator. The solvent-free, room-temperature reaction conditions result in a viscous homopolymer from which the catalyst is easily removed. Subsequent chain extension of this homopolymer with the renewable monomer l-lactide, followed by purification, isolation, and annealing in an aluminum pan, affords a block copolymer product as a transparent, flexible film. Well-resolved resonances in the 1 H NMR spectrum of the individual polymer repeat units facilitate quantitative analysis of polymer composition and molecular weight determination. This experiment introduces students to structures and fundamental concepts of polymer chemistry and exemplifies modern advances in sustainable materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-135
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 14 2014



  • Catalysis
  • Esters
  • Green Chemistry
  • Laboratory Instruction
  • Material Science
  • NMR Spectroscopy
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Polymer Chemistry
  • Polymerization
  • Second-Year Undergraduate

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