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Zein as a Basis of Recyclable Injection Moulded Materials: Effect of Formulation and Processing Conditions

The growing concern about reducing carbon footprint has led to the progressive replacement of traditional polymeric materials by natural-based biodegradable materials. However, materials from natural sources (i.e., plants) typically possess poorer mechanical properties when compared to conventional plastics. To counterbalance this, they need to be adequately formulated and processed to eventually meet the standards for certain applications. Zein is the major storage protein from corn and can be obtained as a by-product from the corn-oil industry. It is an excellent candidate for producing green materials due to its stability, biodegradability, renewability, and suitable mechanical and technical-functional properties. In the present work, zein was blended with a plasticizer (i.e., glycerol) at three different zein/glycerol ratios (75/25, 70/30, and 65/25) and then injection moulded at three different processing temperatures (120, 150, and 190 °C). The properties of both blends and bioplastics were evaluated using dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA), tensile tests, and water absorption capacity (WUC). The properties–structure interrelation was assessed through a scanning electron microscope. Generally, a higher zein content and processing temperature led to a certain reinforcement of the samples. Moreover, all bioplastics displayed a thermoplastic behaviour finally melting at temperatures around 80 °C. The lack of massive crosslinking enabled this melting, which finally could be used to confirm the ability of zein based materials to be recycled, while maintaining their properties. The recyclability of thermoplastic zein materials widens the scope of their application, especially considering its biodegradability.

Publication date: 21/09/2023

Author: Fahimeh Alsadat-Seyedbokaei

Reference: doi: 10.3390/polym15183841

MDPI (polymers)


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.