A Composting Study of Membrane-Like Polyvinyl Alcohol Based Resins and Nanocomposites


This study presents the effect of biodegradation, in a composting medium, on properties of membrane-like crosslinked and noncrosslinked polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and nanocomposites. The composting was carried out for 120 days and the biodegradation of these materials was characterized using various techniques. The changes in the PVA resin and nanocomposite surface topography and microstructure during composting were also characterized. The results from the analyses suggest biodegradation of PVA based materials in compost medium was mainly by enzymes secreted by fungi. The results also indicate that the enzymes degraded the amorphous regions of the specimens first and that the PVA crystallinity played an important role in its biodegradation. The surface roughness of the specimens was seen to increase with composting time as the microbial colonies grew which in turn facilitated further microorganism growth. All specimens broke into small pieces between 90 and 120 days of composting as a result of deep biodegradation. Glyoxal and malonic acid crosslinking decreased the PVA biodegradation rate slightly. Addition of highly crystalline microfibrillated cellulose and naturally occurring halloysite nanotubes in PVA based nanocomposites also decreased the biodegradation rate. The three factors: PVA crystallinity, crosslinking and additives, may be utilized effectively to extend the life of these materials in real life applications.

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This work was partly supported by the National Textile Center (NTC), the Wallace Foundation and the Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design at Cornell University. The authors also thank the Cornell Center for Materials Research (CCMR) for the use of their facilities and Cornell Poultry Research Farm for providing compost material.

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Correspondence to Anil N. Netravali.

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Qiu, K., Netravali, A.N. A Composting Study of Membrane-Like Polyvinyl Alcohol Based Resins and Nanocomposites. J Polym Environ 21, 658–674 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10924-013-0584-0

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  • Polyvinyl alcohol
  • Crosslinking
  • Nanocomposites
  • Biodegradation
  • Composting