Hybrid Biocomposites Based on Poly(Lactic Acid) and Silica Aerogel for Food Packaging Applications
Bionanocomposites based on poly (lactic acid) (PLA) and silica aerogel (SiA) were developed by means of melt extrusion process. PLA-SiA composite films were plasticized with 15 wt.% of acetyl (tributyl citrate) (ATBC) to facilitate the PLA processability as well as to attain flexible polymeric formulations for films for food packaging purposes. Meanwhile, SiA was added in four different proportions (0.5, 1, 3 and 5 wt.%) to evaluate the ability of SiA to improve the thermal, mechanical, and barrier performance of the bionanocomposites. The mechanical performance, thermal stability as well as the barrier properties against different gases (carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen) of the bionanocomposites were evaluated. It was observed that the addition of 3 wt.% of SiA to the plasticized PLA-ATBC matrix showed simultaneously an improvement on the thermal stability as well as the mechanical and barrier performance of films. Finally, PLA-SiA film formulations were disintegrated in compost at the lab-scale level. The combination of ATBC and SiA sped up the disintegration of PLA matrix. Thus, the bionanocomposites produced here show great potential as sustainable polymeric formulations with interest in the food packaging sector.