SBIR Phase I: Versatile Biobased Plastics from Omega-hydroxylated fatty acids
National Science Foundation
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Small Business Information
6 Metrotech Center, Brooklyn, NY, 11201-3840
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
AbstractThis Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will create a family of bioplastics containing omega-hydroxyfatty acid (omega-HOFAs) repeat units to fill a gap in commercially available bioplastics. First, the effects of omega-HOFA chain length on corresponding polymer (P[omega-HOFA]) material properties will be elucidated. Then, reactive blending methods will be studied to generate bioplastics that exploit both polylactic acid (PLA) strength and P(omega-HOFA) ductility. Blend process parameters (e.g. time, temperature, catalyst, and catalyst concentration) will be varied to adjust P(omega-HOFA)/PLA transesterification which will result in ?fine-tuning? of phase compatibility and optimization of blend physical-mechanical properties. We anticipate that, relative to PLA, P(omega-HOFA)/PLA blends will have significantly improved hydrolytic stability, impact resistance, and warp resistance. Requirements will be established for reactor configuration and corresponding process variables as a function scale for both P(omega-HOFA) synthesis and reactive blending. Furthermore, the compostability of P(omega-HOFAs) and P(omega-HOFAs)/PLA will be determined. Successful completion of the proposed Phase I research program will result in a thorough analysis of material thermal and physico-mechanical properties needed for identification of commercial applications and to further engage strategic industrial partners. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to develop new biobased materials that meet evolving needs of consumers while providing cost-performance advantages over existing products. Many current bioplastics have inherent problems that limit their market penetration. Of particular relevance to this program is PLA that is hindered in its potential use due to its brittle behavior, inadequate vapor transmission properties, hydrolytic instability, and low impact strength. Our omega-HOFAs provide a versatile readily renewable building block to the plastics industry that through homopolymerization, copolymerization and blending can be used to produce a wide-range of bioplastics with desired physical and mechanical properties. Preliminary work on blends of P(omega-HOFAs) with PLA show that many deficiencies of PLA, such as its brittle behavior, are eliminated while blends show important improvements in strength relative to P(omega-HOFAs). This work will focus on gaining fundamental information on the physical-mechanical properties of these blend materials as the degree of transesterification is manipulated by reactive blending. Furthermore, an understanding will be gained on how blending effects the biodegradability of both components. The outcome of this work will be renewable biodegradable plastics that out-perform their petroleum derived competitors and decrease our dependency on petroleum for chemical production.
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