Improvement in Phase Compatibility and Mechanical Properties of Poly(L-lactide)-b-poly(ethylene glycol)-b-poly(L-lactide)/thermoplastic Starch Blends with Citric Acid
Flexible poly(L-lactide)-b-poly(ethylene glycol)-b-poly(L-lactide) block copolymer (PLLA-PEG-PLLA) bioplastic has been blended with low-cost thermoplastic starch (TPS) to prepare fully biodegradable bioplastics. However, the mechanical properties of PLLA-PEG-PLLA matrix decrease after the addition of TPS. In this work, citric acid (CA) was used as a compatibilizer to improve the phase compatibility and mechanical properties of PLLA-PEG-PLLA/TPS blends. TPS was first modified with CA (1.5 %wt, 3 %wt, and 4.5%wt) before melt blending with PLLA-PEG-PLLA. The PLLA-PEG-PLLA/modified TPS ratio was constant at 60/40 by weight. CA modification of TPS suppressed the crystallinity and enhanced the thermal stability of the PLLA-PEG-PLLA matrix, as determined through differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), respectively. The compatibility between the dispersed TPS and PLLA-PEG-PLLA phases was improved through modification of TPS with CA, as revealed by the smaller size of the co-continuous TPS phase from scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis. Increasing the hydrophilicity of the blends containing modified TPS confirmed the improvement in phase compatibility of the components. From the tensile test, the ultimate tensile strength, elongation at break, and Young&rsquo;s modulus of the blends increased with the CA content. In conclusion, CA showed a promising behavior in improving the phase compatibility and mechanical properties of PLLA-PEG-PLLA/TPS blends. These PLLA-PEG-PLLA/modified TPS blends have potential to be used as flexible bioplastic products.