Processing and Characterization of Bioplastics from the Invasive Seaweed Rugulopteryx okamurae
The seaweed Rugulopteryx okamurae, from the Pacific Ocean, is considered an invasive species in the Mediterranean Sea. In this work, the use of this seaweed is proposed for the development of bio-based plastic materials (bioplastics) as a possible solution to the pollution produced by the plastic industry. The raw seaweed Rugulopteryx okamurae was firstly blended with glycerol (ratios: 50/50, 60/40 and 70/30), and subsequently, they were processed by injection molding at a mold temperature of 90, 120 and 150 &deg;C. The rheological properties (frequency sweep tests and temperature ramp tests) were obtained for blends before and after processing by injection molding. The functional properties of the bioplastics were determined by the water uptake capacity (WUC) values and further scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The results obtained indicated that E&rsquo; was always greater than E&rdquo;, which implies a predominantly elastic behavior. The 70/30 ratio presents higher values for both the viscoelastic moduli and tensile properties than the rest of the systems (186.53 &plusmn; 22.80 MPa and 2.61 &plusmn; 0.51 MPa, respectively). The WUC decreased with the increase in seaweed in the mixture, ranging from 262% for the 50/50 ratio to 181% for the 70/30 ratio. When carrying out the study on molded bioplastic 70/30 at different temperatures, the seaweed content did not exert a remarkable influence on the final properties of the bioplastics obtained. Thus, this invasive species could be used as raw material for the manufacture of environmentally friendly materials processed by injection molding, with several applications such as food packaging, control&ndash;release, etc.