From corn to plastics Plastic and fiber products made from corn are on retail shelves and in consumers’ homes around the world. Here is a look at how plant sugar is harnessed and transformed into the nature-based plastic NatureWorks ® PLA. Veins transport sugar to other areas of the plant. Oxygen exits through pores. The starch for the manufacturing of NatureWorks PLA is removed from the kernels. Cross Section of a Leaf from a Corn Plant Photosynthesis takes place in plant structures called chloroplasts. Dozens of chloroplasts lie within each plant cell. Pockets within leaves allow for exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. A chain of polymer can consist of tens of thousands of units linked together. Cross Section of a Kernel of Corn Microorganisms Ring Kernel of Corn Water Carbon dioxide Sunlight Glucose (sugar) Oxygen The starch stored in the endosperm supplies the germ with the energy needed to grow into a plant. The hull covers the outside of the kernel, protecting it from deterioration. The germ contains the genetic information, vitamins, proteins and minerals needed for the seed to grow into a plant. NatureWorks ® PLA in the making This plastic is made up of long molecular chains of the polymer polylactide (PLA). It is derived from naturally-occurring plant starch. Standard field corn (maize) is used today to make NatureWorks PLA due to its cost and abundance. In the future, PLA could be manufactured from any plant material from which sugar can be harvested. Unused sugar is stored as starch in the kernel. Farmers harvest the corn
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