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Low Molecular Weight and Polymeric Modifiers as Toughening Agents in Poly(3-Hydroxybutyrate) Films

The inherent brittleness of poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB) prevents its use as a substitute of petroleum-based polymers. Low molecular weight plasticizers, such as tributyl 2-acetyl citrate (TAC), cannot properly solve this issue. Herein, PHB films were obtained using a biosynthesized poly(3-hydroxyoctanoate) (PHO) and a commercially available TAC as toughening agents. The use of TAC strongly decreased the PHB thermal stability up to 200 °C due to the loss of low boiling point plasticizer, while minor weight loss was noticed at this temperature for the PHB-PHO blend. Both agents shifted the glass transition temperature of PHB to a lower temperature, the effect being more pronounced for TAC. The elongation at break of PHB increased by 700% after PHO addition and by only 185% in the case of TAC; this demonstrates an important toughening effect of the polymeric modifier. Migration of TAC to the upper surface of the films and no sign of migration in the case of PHO were highlighted by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) results. In vitro biocompatibility tests showed that all the PHB films are non-toxic towards L929 cells and have no proinflammatory immune response. The use of PHO as a toughening agent in PHB represents an attractive solution to its brittleness in the case of packaging and biomedical applications while conserving its biodegradability and biocompatibility.

Publication date: 22/10/2020

Author: Frone

Reference: doi: 10.3390/polym12112446

MDPI (polymers)


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.