From corn to plasticsPlastic 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 transportsugar to otherareas of the plant.Oxygen exitsthrough pores.The starch for themanufacturing ofNatureWorks PLAis removed fromthe kernels.Cross Sectionof a Leaf froma Corn PlantPhotosynthesistakes place in plantstructures called chloroplasts. Dozensof chloroplasts lie within each plant cell.Pockets withinleaves allow forexchange ofoxygen and carbon dioxide.A chain of polymercan consist of tensof thousands ofunits linked together.Cross Sectionof a Kernel of CornMicroorganismsRingKernelof CornWaterCarbondioxideSunlightGlucose (sugar)OxygenThe starch storedin the endospermsupplies the germwith the energyneeded to growinto a plant.The hull covers theoutside of the kernel,protecting it fromdeterioration.The germ contains the geneticinformation, vitamins, proteinsand minerals needed for theseed to grow into a plant.NatureWorks®PLA in the makingThis 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 makeNatureWorks PLA due toits cost and abundance. Inthe future, PLA could bemanufactured from anyplant material from whichsugar can be harvested.Unused sugar isstored as starch in the kernel.
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