PLA and cellulose based degradable polymer composites
Oka, Mihir Anil
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We studied PLA-microcrystalline cellulose composites, focusing on the effects of processing, particle size and surface modification. The thermal and mechanical properties of these PLA based composites were studied and the effect of cellulose addition on PLA degradation was analyzed. For our system, the degradation rate was found to depend on initial sample crystallinity, pH of the degradation media and cellulose content of the composite. Composites were prepared using solution processing and melt mixing methods. The processing methods influenced the polymer's ability to crystallize affecting the mechanical properties. Isothermal crystallization studies carried out to study the kinetics of crystallization showed melt processed samples to have lower half time for crystallization and higher value for the Avrami exponent. The crystallization rate of PLA was also found to depend on surface chemical composition of cellulose particles and the particle size. Influence of filler surface modification on the composite properties was studied via grafting of lactic acid and polylactic acid to cellulose particles and the effect of filler size was studied using hydrolyzed microcrystalline cellulose particles. A simple esterification reaction that required no external catalyst was used for surface modification of cellulose particles. Surface modification of cellulose particles enhanced the static and dynamic mechanical properties of the composite samples due to improvement in the PLA-cellulose compatibility that resulted in better interfacial interactions. The utility of cellulose, available from a renewable resource, as an effective reinforcement for PLA is demonstrated.