Biobased and Biodegradable Impact Modifier for Completely Renewable Bioplastic
The now rapidly developing field of plastic materials based on renewable resources (bioplastics) provides tremendous opportunities to sustain and enhance the domestic plastics industries, the fourth largest manufacturing sector of the American economy. In addition, bioplastic materials are derived from agricultural materials and will help reduce the U.S. dependence on foreign oil Growth in the use of these new, greener plastics is proceeding rapidly; however, there are a number of cases in which bioplastics lack the properties needed to compete with increasingly expensive petroleum based materials. Drawing on decades of scientific knowledge about polymer blends and the emerging field of polymer nanocomposites, these property limitations can be overcome. Such technological improvements expand the markets for value-added biobased industrial products. Accordingly, the proposed research directly supports the Sustainable Bioenergy Challenge research priority of the USDA. The goal of this Phase II project is to develop an impact modified bionanocomposite that is 100% based on renewable resources and to use it to produce prototype cutlery. Polylactide (PLA) is a commercially available bioplastic that is biodegradable; however, it is a brittle plastic with poor elongation at break so there is a clear market need for a modifier that improves properties while maintaining biodegradability. To create such a modifier, the key innovation is novel covalent grafting of polymers onto reinforcing cellulosic nanowhiskers (CNW); this creates graft-CNWs (g-CNW). These novel supramolecular structures dramatically improve the impact properties without compromising other desirable properties. In particular, the impact strength will be improved while maintaining modulus and strength. The prototype cutlery will be evaluated for adequate use properties and economic viability.
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