Hydrolytic Degradation of Polylactic Acid Fibers as a Function of pH and Exposure Time

Vaid, Radhika
Yıldırım, Erol
Pasquinelli, Melissa A.
King, Martin W.
Polylactic acid (PLA) is a widely used bioresorbable polymer in medical devices owing to its biocompatibility, bioresorbability, and biodegradability. It is also considered a sustainable solution for a wide variety of other applications, including packaging. Because of its widespread use, there have been many studies evaluating this polymer. However, gaps still exist in our understanding of the hydrolytic degradation in extreme pH environments and its impact on physical and mechanical properties, especially in fibrous materials. The goal of this work is to explore the hydrolytic degradation of PLA fibers as a function of a wide range of pH values and exposure times. To complement the experimental measurements, molecular-level details were obtained using both molecular dynamics (MD) simulations with ReaxFF and density functional theory (DFT) calculations. The hydrolytic degradation of PLA fibers from both experiments and simulations was observed to have a faster rate of degradation in alkaline conditions, with 40% of strength loss of the fibers in just 25 days together with an increase in the percent crystallinity of the degraded samples. Additionally, surface erosion was observed in these PLA fibers, especially in extreme alkaline environments, in contrast to bulk erosion observed in molded PLA grafts and other materials, which is attributed to the increased crystallinity induced during the fiber spinning process. These results indicate that spun PLA fibers function in a predictable manner as a bioresorbable medical device when totally degraded at end-of-life in more alkaline conditions.


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Citation Formats
R. Vaid, E. Yıldırım, M. A. Pasquinelli, and M. W. King, “Hydrolytic Degradation of Polylactic Acid Fibers as a Function of pH and Exposure Time,” MOLECULES, vol. 26, no. 24, pp. 0–0, 2021, Accessed: 00, 2022. [Online]. Available: https://hdl.handle.net/11511/95311.