RNA-Inspired and Accelerated Degradation of Polylactide in Seawater

Timo Rheinberger, Jonas Wolfs, Agata Paneth, Hubert Gojzewski, Piotr Paneth, Frederik R. Wurm*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Marine plastic pollution is a worldwide challenge making advances in the field of biodegradable polymer materials necessary. Polylactide (PLA) is a promising biodegradable polymer used in various applications; however, it has a very slow seawater degradability. Herein, we present the first library of PLA derivatives with incorporated “breaking points” to vary the speed of degradation in artificial seawater from years to weeks. Inspired by the fast hydrolysis of ribonucleic acid (RNA) by intramolecular transesterification, we installed phosphoester breaking points with similar hydroxyethoxy side groups into the PLA backbone to accelerate chain scission. Sequence-controlled anionic ring-opening copolymerization of lactide and a cyclic phosphate allowed PLA to be prepared with controlled distances of the breaking points along the backbone. This general concept could be translated to other slowly degrading polymers and thereby be able to prevent additional marine pollution in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16673-16681
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number40
Early online date4 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2021


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