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Toughening of polylactic acid pp.991-1008 $100.00
Authors:  (Long Jiang, Jinwen Zhang, Wood Materials and Engineering Laboratory, Washington State University, Pullman WA)
Polylactic acid (PLA) is a cornstarch-based biodegradable polyester. Commercial
PLAs exhibit much higher Young’s modulus and tensile strength than mainstream
petroleum-based polymers such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). However,
brittleness is a major problem preventing PLA from widespread applications. In this
chapter, three PLA toughening strategies by physical blending are presented, including
soft polymer inclusion toughening, rigid nanoparticle toughening and hybrid
multicomponent toughening. Poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT) is a
flexible biodegradable polyester with low strength and modulus. It was blended with
PLA using a twin-screw extruder. It was found that at only 5 wt% PBAT content, the
blend demonstrated a 10-fold increase in tensile elongation. However, this toughening
effect is achieved by sacrificing strength and modulus of the blend. Nanoparticle (e.g.,
montmorillonite and nanosized calcium carbonate) reinforced polymer composites often
exhibits superior mechanical properties because of MMT’s unique layered platelet
nanostructure. At 2.5 wt% MMT content, elongation of the PLA/MMT blend tripled and
most importantly, strength and modulus of the blend increased as well. However, Both
PBAT and MMT toughening had their limitations, i.e., lack of the flexibility in the design
of product properties. Ternary blends of PLA/PBAT/MMT provided an ideal platform to
tailor mechanical properties of PLA to meet specific requirements of different
applications. Ternary system brought more flexibility in controlling the properties of the
system and provided a much larger property envelope for PLA blends. PBAT was the
main controlling factor of specimen elongation while MMT were primarily used to boost
modulus and strength of the blend. By properly adjusting their contents in the blend,
desired properties could be realized. 

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Toughening of polylactic acid pp.991-1008