Polymer Synthesis

Research topics

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Polylactide (PLA)

PLA is a bio-based aliphatic polyester with an unusually high modulus and tensile strength for this class of polymer, as well as barrier properties that are particularly suitable for packaging fresh produce.

  1. Pure PLA is brittle and has low elongation at break and impact strength.
  2. The technically implemented PLA synthesis process is complex and multi-step, the possibilities for influencing the polymer structure are small.
  3. The mechanical recycling of PLA often leads to deteriorated properties.

We adapt the properties of PLA to the respective application, improve synthesis processes and develop end-of-life options.

Polylactide, PLA

Mechanical properties


Soft PLA materials

Image: strand of classic PLA (left) and a flexible PLA material (right).

  • block copolymers with soft blocks from polyurethane chemistry
  • no migrating plasticisers
  • elongation at break and melt properties adjustable


Polylactide, PLA

Simplified process management

  • process control combined with
    structural variation
  • based on polycondensation and chain extension by reactive extrusion
  • possibility to synthesise PLA grades with a broad property profile

Polylactide, PLA

Chemical recycling

  • chemical recycling to lactide
  • old PLA is recycled into new material 

Polylactide, PLA


We support you in the
development of new PLA materials!


  • all synthetic questions related to polylactide
  • PLA syntheses on a kg scale

Isocyanate-free polyurethanes (NIPU)

Conventional polyurethanes are made using toxic isocyanates and often exhibit variations in material properties. Both of these factors cause problems, especially in sensitive areas of application such as medical technology.

We develop polyurethanes for your medical products that are free of toxic isocyanates (nonisocyanate polyurethanes, NIPU). They meet the requirements just as well as conventional polyurethanes and also have very reproducible material properties.


Your contact: Dr. Christoph Herfurth

Isocyanate-free polyurethanes

Process development

  • polycondensation with variable formulation
  • batch and semi-batch
  • extrusion to NIPU strands
  • NIPU tubing
  • injection molding of NIPU

Isocyanate-free polyurethanes

Customized material properties

  • variable shore hardness
  • adjustable processing range
    (melting behaviour)
  • variation of material parameters
    (tensile strength, elongation at break,

Biobased materials based on furandicarboxylic acid

Politicians as well as European plastics manufacturers are committed to strategies in the sense of a circular economy, such as intelligent product design, repair management and high collection rates. One building block of this strategy must therefore be new bio-based material flows.

We develop biobased alternatives to conventional polyesters - from raw materials to process optimization.


Your contact: Dr. Daniel Zehm

Materials based on furandicarboxylic acid

Biobased FDCA substance streams

utilization of 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) as a biobased and aromatic building block for polycondensation products

  • thermoplastics such as PEF
  • thermoplastic elastomers
  • reactive resins (duromers)

ComCarbon® technology

Melt-spinnable PAN copolymers for carbon fibers

Lightweight, carbon fiber-reinforced materials are steadily gaining in importance for applications in the automotive industry, wind turbines or aviation. Carbon fibers uniquely combine low weight with outstanding material properties. Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) is the most important precursor material for C-fibers. However, the manufacturing process has disadvantages:

  • Precursor spinning accounts for 40 % of C-fibre costs
  • So far only possible from solution, because PAN does not melt
  • Use of problematic solvents


With our ComCarbon® technology, these disadvantages can be overcome.


of the Fraunhofer IAP


  • melt spinning of PAN copolymers leads to 33 % cost reduction for C-fiber
  • adjustable melting ranges
  • customized flow properties for different melt spinning technologies
  • in-house spinning process development 


  • Textile fibres
  • C-fibre precursors
  • Nonwovens

carbon fibers

We offer you individual strategies and solutions to make your manufacturing and processing of carbon fibers more economical and ecological.

Functionalised PVAc wood glues

For conventional hot water or weather-resistant wood glues, such as those used for window scantlings or wood flooring, the processing which is required for the desired glue strength is challenging.

We use reactive latex compounds to enable a 1-component glue and to increase the glue strength. 

Functionalised PVAc wood glues

Two-component adhesive in a one-pot

  • mixture of PVAc dispersions with complementary, reactive functionality at the producer
  • for the user as 1K system can be processed
  • pH-neutral adjustable
  • formaldehyde free
  • isocyanate-free

Polyacrylate systems (acrylics) and polystyrene beads (styrenics)

Polyacrylate and polystyrene systems can be designed for applications ranging from adhesives and coatings to ion exchangers and column materials to Point-of-Care (PoC) diagnostics and controlled drug release. We develop sustainable processes and customised materials and support with our expertise and equipment in process optimisation, upscaling and troubleshooting.

We cover the entire spectrum of classical heterophase polymerisations.


  • adhesives
  • coatings
  • toughening modifiers
  • active ingredient release

  • emulsion and suspension polymerisation
  • cross-linked or non-cross-linked particles
  • special particle geometries possible 
    • core-shell
    • interpenetrating networks (IPN)
  • controlled radical polymerisation (ATRP, SET-LRP, RAFT)


  • ion exchanger
  • LC column material
  • foamable PS (EPS)
  • carrier material (diagnostics)
  • dispersion paints

  • emulsion, dispersion and suspension polymerisation
  • crosslinked or non-crosslinked particles
  • particle sizes from 10 nm to 2000 µm
  • copolymerisation to functionalised PS particles

Cationic polyelectrolytes as flocculants

As flocculants, cationic polyelectrolytes determine the technology and economy of process stages in wastewater treatment and paper production. Commercial acrylate-based flocculation aids become ineffective at elevated temperatures, non-neutral pH or high salt loads. They also have to be dissolved in a complex way or contain oils or salts as a carrier phase.

We develop cationic polyelectrolytes that are easy to use and/or highly effective even under difficult conditions.

Hydrolysis-stable flocculants

Process window

Highly cationic polymers based on diallyldimethylammonium chloride DADMAC

  • acrylamide-free
  • molar masses up to 1 million g/mol
  • stable to hydrolysis, therefore applicable over wide pH and temperature ranges and salt concentrations
  • polymer dispersion in carrier oil

Cationic polyelectrolytes as flocculants

Application form



Combination of primary flocculant and flocculating aid

  • aqueous dispersion of cationic polyacrylamide
  • contains aluminum salts as primary flocculants; without additional salt load
  • active ingredient ready for use by dilution with water

Polybutylensuccinat (PBS)

In 2018, 359 million tonnes of plastics were produced worldwide. Europe accounted for approximately 61.8 million tonnes of this. Approximately 51.2 million tonnes are processed in Europe. Almost half of the total consumption is accounted for by the polyolefins PE and PP. [Source: PlasticsEurope]. Polyolefins are not biodegradable. They accumulate as waste in the environment worldwide.


We develop biodegradable polybutylene succinate that can replace polyolefins.

succinate as
polyolefin replacement

  • development of modified PBS grades to cover the property profile of polyolefins
  • biobased producible
  • biodegradable according to DIN EN 13432

Microgels from inverse emulsion polymerization

Thermoresponsive microgel particles react to external stimulation by temperature. If a critical temperature is reached, these particles swell or shrink reversibly (programmable). The synthesis of such particles has so far essentially been described by means of precipitation polymerisation. But this polymerisation process is not efficiently scalable.


We develop scalable synthesis processes.


Scalable process development

  • scalable synthesis through inverse
    emulsion polymerisation
  • critical temperature adjustable through monomer selection
  • temperature range from 32 °C to 42 °C covered

Partially biobased copolyamides


Polyamides are engineering plastics with a wide range of applications. Their thermal and mechanical properties can be tailored to individual applications through copolymerisation. 

We develop copolyamides based on commercial or new bio-based building blocks with adapted property profiles.



Graph: Influence of melting point and degree of crystallization on the composition of a partially biobased copolyamide.



Synthesis of copolyamides from
caprolactam and biobased
11-aminoundecanoic acid

  • melting point of the polyamides adjustable in the range 120 °C to 200 °C
  • E-modulus and tensile strength comparable with PA6
  • water absorption significantly reduced compared to PA6
  • electron irradiation to increase the modulus of elasticity

Your contact persons

Antje Lieske

Contact Press / Media

Dr. Antje Lieske

Head of department | Polymer Synthesis

Fraunhofer IAP
Geiselbergstraße 69
14476 Potsdam

Phone +49 331 568-1329

Christoph Herfurth

Contact Press / Media

Dr. Christoph Herfurth

Geiselbergstraße 69
14476 Potsdam

Phone +49 331 568-1212

Daniel Zehm

Contact Press / Media

Dr. Daniel Zehm

Geiselbergstraße 69
14476 Potsdam

Phone +49 331 568-1318