Journal of Polymers and the Environment

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 335–343 | Cite as

The Effect of Aqueous Urea on the Processing, Structure and Properties of CGM

  • Kim L. Pickering
  • Casparus J. R. Verbeek
  • Carmen Viljoen
Original Paper


Corn gluten meal (CGM) is potentially a cost-effective raw material for producing a bioderivable thermoplastic. However, CGM disintegrates to a powder subsequent to processing with polar plasticisers, such as water. The hypothesis of this study was that aqueous urea could be used to denature protein within CGM and therefore encourage protein–protein interactions leading to consolidated bioplastics when using water as a plasticiser. To assess this, the effects of aqueous urea on structure and properties of CGM with particular focus on storage were assessed. Processing of CGM with aqueous urea produced consolidated materials. FTIR analysis showed secondary structure was modified during processing, leading to increased amounts of α-helices and random coils and reduction of the amount of intermolecular β-sheets and turns. Above 6 wt% free water, the plasticising efficiency of water in processed CGM increased as the amount of denatured proteins increased. Below 6 wt% free water, protein secondary structure did not have a significant influence on thermal and flexural properties. It was found that storage environment and urea concentration influenced the rate of drying, however, the final water content was constant relative to CGM, and not urea. The materials were resistant to cracking at urea concentrations above 8 M, provided the mass loss during storage did not exceed 15 wt%.


Corn gluten meal Aqueous urea Bioplastic Protein secondary structure 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kim L. Pickering
    • 1
  • Casparus J. R. Verbeek
    • 1
  • Carmen Viljoen
    • 2
  1. 1.HamiltonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Nuplex Industries Ltd.Penrose, AucklandNew Zealand

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