Biobased and compostable materials have gained in popularity as sustainable solutions for reducing waste and minimizing environmental impacts. Polylactide (PLA) continues to be a popular biobased polymer, but has limited use due to its brittleness, high vapor and ultraviolet (UV) light permeability. This study addresses these shortfalls through copolymerization of lactide (LA) with organosolv lignin from switchgrass (OSL) and delta-valerolactone (DVL) to produce 100 % biobased polymers with improved properties. Incorporation of hydrophobic OSL into poly(L-lactide) (PLLA), even in small quantities (up to 0.26%) resulted in a considerable decrease in water vapor transition rate (WVTR) of up to 64 %, nearly a 20 % decrease in UV light transmission, and slowing of hydrolytic degradation. Unfortunately, lignin appears to stop the chain propagation and effectively reduces overall M ̅_w of the copolymer. Young’s modulus for these copolymers is affected little as stress and strain decreased proportionally with the addition of OSL, resulting in a copolymer that is nearly equal to PLLA in stiffness. To improve elasticity, terpolymers of PLLA-DVL-OSL were explored. The addition of DVL to the polymerization was found to increase UV transmission rate, an effect that could be counteracted through OSL addition. PLLA-DVL co and terpolymers showed low Young’s modulus, characteristic for polymers with elastomeric properties. WVTR was seen to decrease with the addition of DVL and was even further reduced through addition of OSL, resulting in an overall WVTR reduction of up to 79 %.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2016. Major: Natural Resources Science and Management. Advisor: Ulrike Tschirner. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 154 pages.
Synthesis and Physiochemical Characterization of Biobased, Compostable Polymers Containing Lignin.
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