Indexed on: 08 Jul '10Published on: 08 Jul '10Published in: Cellulose
Polylactic acid (PLA) nanocomposites were prepared using cellulose nanowhiskers (CNW) as a reinforcing element in order to asses the value of this filler to reduce the gas and vapour permeability of the biopolyester matrix. The nanocomposites were prepared by incorporating 1, 2, 3 and 5 wt% of the CNW into the PLA matrix by a chloroform solution casting method. The morphology, thermal and mechanical behaviour and permeability of the films were investigated. The CNW prepared by acid hydrolysis of highly purified alpha cellulose microfibers, resulted in nanofibers of 60–160 nm in length and of 10–20 nm in thickness. The results indicated that the nanofiller was well dispersed in the PLA matrix, did not impair the thermal stability of this but induced the formation of some crystallinity, most likely transcrystallinity. CNW prepared by freeze drying exhibited in the nanocomposites better morphology and properties than their solvent exchanged counterparts. Interestingly, the water permeability of nanocomposites of PLA decreased with the addition of CNW prepared by freeze drying by up to 82% and the oxygen permeability by up to 90%. Optimum barrier enhancement was found for composites containing loadings of CNW below 3 wt%. Typical modelling of barrier and mechanical properties failed to describe the behaviour of the composites and appropriate discussion regarding this aspect was also carried out. From the results, CNW exhibit novel significant potential in coatings, membranes and food agrobased packaging applications.