Structural Features and Properties’ Characterization of Polylactic Acid/Natural Rubber Blends with Epoxidized Soybean Oil
Because of the effort to preserve petroleum resources and promote the development of eco-friendly materials, bio-based polymers produced from sustainable resources have attracted great attention. Among them, polylactide (PLA) and natural rubber (NR) present prominent polymers with unique barrier and mechanical features. A series of samples with improved phase compatibility were obtained by blending PLA and NR using a double-rotor mixer. A plasticizing and enhancing effect on the polymers’ compatibility was achieved by using epoxidized soybean oil (ESO) as a natural plasticizer and compatibilizer. ESO compounding in the PLA-NR blends increased the mobility of the biopolymer’s molecular chains and improved the thermal stability of the novel material. The size of the NR domains embedded in the continuous PLA matrix decreased with the ESO content increment. The combination of thermal analysis and scanning electron microscopy enabled the authors to determine the features of potential packaging material and the optimal content of PLA-NR-ESO for the best mechanical properties.