Combined Effect of Poly(lactic acid)-Grafted Maleic Anhydride Compatibilizer and Halloysite Nanotubes on Morphology and Properties of Polylactide/Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyhexanoate) Blends
Given the global challenge of plastic pollution, the development of new bioplastics to replace conventional polymers has become a priority. It is therefore essential to achieve a balance in the performances of biopolymers in order to improve their commercial availability. In this topic, this study aims to investigate the morphology and properties of poly(lactic acid) (PLA)/ poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyhexanoate) (PHBHHx) (at a ratio of 75/25 (w/w)) blends reinforced with halloysite nanotubes (HNTs) and compatibilized with poly(lactic acid)-grafted maleic anhydride (PLA-g-MA). HNTs and PLA-g-MA were added to the polymer blend at 5 and 10 wt.%, respectively, and everything was processed via melt compounding. A scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis shows that HNTs are preferentially localized in PHBHHx nodules rather than in the PLA matrix due to its higher wettability. When HNTs are combined with PLA-g-MA, a finer and a more homogeneous morphology is observed, resulting in a reduction in the size of PHBHHx nodules. The presence of HNTs in the polymer blend improves the impact strength from 12.7 to 20.9 kJ/mm2. Further, with the addition of PLA-g-MA to PLA/PHBHHX/HNT nanocomposites, the tensile strength, elongation at break, and impact strength all improve significantly, rising from roughly 42 MPa, 14.5%, and 20.9 kJ/mm2 to nearly 46 MPa, 18.2%, and 31.2 kJ/mm2, respectively. This is consistent with the data obtained via dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA). The thermal stability of the compatibilized blend reinforced with HNTs is also improved compared to the non-compatibilized one. Overall, this study highlights the effectiveness of combining HNTs and PLA-g-AM for the properties enhancement of PLA/PHBHHx blends.