Effects of Aging and Different Mechanical Recycling Processes on the Structure and Properties of Poly(lactic acid)-clay Nanocomposites
The growing use of poly(lactic acid) (PLA) and PLA-based nanocomposites in packaging has raised the interest of studying the mechanical recycling of the wastes and the properties of the recycled materials. The main objective of this work was to study the effect of two different mechanical recycling processes on the structure and properties of a PLA-montmorillonite nanocomposite. The two recycling processes included accelerated thermal and photochemical aging steps to simulate the degradation experienced by post-consumer plastics during their service life. One of them also included a demanding washing process prior to the reprocessing. A decrease in the molecular weight of PLA was observed in the recycled materials, especially in those subjected to the washing step, which explained the small decrease in microhardness and the increased water uptake at long immersion times. Water absorption at short immersion times was similar in virgin and recycled materials and was accurately described using a Fickian model. The recycled materials showed increased thermal, optical and gas barrier properties due to the improved clay dispersion that was observed by XRD and TEM analysis. The results suggest that recycled PLA-clay nanocomposites can be used in demanding applications.
KeywordsMechanical recycling Poly(lactic acid) Nanocomposites Structure Properties
The authors would like to thank the Centro Nacional de Microscopía Electrónica and the CAI Difracción de Rayos X of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain), for the collaboration in the TEM and XRD measurements, respectively. The authors also would like to acknowledge the funding from MINECO-Spain (project MAT2013-47972-C2-2-P), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (project UPM RP 160543006) and Ecoembes (project DEHIPLA-R).
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