The Bran and Grain Grinding Level Affect the Tensile Characteristics of Bioplastics Derived from Wholegrain Wheat Flours
The mechanical performance of thermoplastic bulk samples obtained by plasticizing wheat flours differing in grain hardness, alveographic parameters, absence or presence of bran, and grinding level was assessed. Grains of four bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cultivars (Altamira, Aubusson, Blasco, and Bologna) were milled with the aim of producing single-cultivar refined flour (R), or wholegrain flour with fine (F) or coarse (C) grinding. The flours were plasticized, injection molded and tested for tensile properties. The results confirmed that the presence of bran increased the strength (&sigma;) and reduced the elongation at break (&epsilon;) of thermoplastics obtained from the flours of each cultivar. The grinding level had an effect, since &sigma; was higher and &epsilon; was lower in F than in C samples. SEM analysis of samples revealed that the bran and its texture affected the exposure of starch granules to plasticizer. Composting experiments also revealed that the formulations are able to disintegrate within 21 days with a mass loss rate higher in plastics from F than C flours, while germination tests carried out with cress seeds indicated that it takes two months before the compost loses its phytotoxic effects. Overall, the refining and bran particle size of wheat flours, besides their gluten composition and baking properties, represent novel choice factors to be considered when tailoring the manufacturing of plastic materials for selected requirements and uses.