The Effects of Nanoclay on the Mechanical Properties, Carvacrol Release and Degradation of a PLA/PBAT Blend
The formulation of polymeric films endowed with the abilities of controlled release of antimicrobials and biodegradability is the latest trend of food packaging. Biodegradable polymer (Bio-Flex&reg;)-based nanocomposites containing carvacrol as an antimicrobial agent, and a nanoclay as a filler, were processed into blown films. The presence of such hybrid loading, while not affecting the overall filmability of the neat matrix, led to enhanced mechanical properties, with relative increments up to +70% and +200% in terms of elastic modulus and elongation at break. FTIR/ATR analysis and release tests pointed out that the presence of nanoclay allowed higher carvacrol loading efficiency, reasonably hindering its volatilization during processing. Furthermore, it also mitigated the burst delivery, thereby enabling a more controlled release of the antimicrobial agent. The results of mass loss tests indicated that all the formulations showed a rather fast degradation with mass losses ranging from 37.5% to 57.5% after 876 h. The presence of clay and carvacrol accelerated the mass loss rate of Bio-Flex&reg;, especially when added simultaneously, thus indicating an increased biodegradability. Such ternary systems could be, therefore, particularly suitable as green materials for food packaging applications, and for antimicrobial wrapping applications.