Multifunctional biomaterials through blends to nanoblends and hierarchical nano-biocomposites: New challenges & opportunities

Dr. Amar Mohanty, Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre, Department of Plant Agriculture & School of Engineering, University of Guelph

09 February 2009 at 10:30

Location: JHE 326H

Two recently highlighted bioplastics are polylactides (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). They are of particular interest because of their renewable origin, biodegradability and claimed environmental sustainability in reducing green house gas emission. There is a pressing need to enhance the versatility of these emerging bioplastics for more wide spread applications, making them ready to compete with traditional plastics. This presentation will highlight our research findings on engineering the properties of PHA and PLA bioplastics that can find applications from flexible type biopackaging to green flooring and auto-parts uses. The PHA-thermoplastic starch blends and their talc-filled biocomposites were successfully melt processed into cast films for flexible packaging. Injection molded hybrid biodegradable green composites were developed from natural fiber, talc and PHA. In another innovation green flooring developed with more than 75wt.% filled calcium carbonate-PLA composites to substitute PVC-based floors. A transformative approach in creating a new range of smart biomaterials was initiated by incorporation of nanostructures into bioplastic. A hyperbranched polymer (HBP), when cross-linked with anhydride, creates a nano-structure in PLA matrix. This nanostructure controlled PLA showed an improvement of the elongation of the original PLA by 9 fold. Further reinforcement of such new bioplastic matrix with nano-clay (with 2 wt.% loading) and talc (5 wt.% loading) improved the percent elongation of the virgin PLA by 20 fold and 25 fold respectively. The reinforcements of these nano-structure controlled bioplastics with micro-/macro-/nano- fibres and particles alone or in combinations known as hierarchical nano-biocomposites would help in the design and engineering a new class of multifunctional biomaterials.

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