Structure&ndash;Properties Relationship of Reprocessed Bionanocomposites of Plasticized Polylactide Reinforced with Nanofibrillated Cellulose
Bionanocomposites of polylactide (PLA), plasticized with poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) (7.5 wt%, 400 and 1500 g/mol) and reinforced with nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) (1, 3, and 5 wt%) were sequentially compounded, and injection and compression molded. All of the stages caused structural and morphological consequences, more relevant in the plasticized PLA, especially with low molar PEG. Small percentages of NFC (1 and 3 wt%) acted as crystalline nucleating agents and improved thermo-oxidative stability. Given the substantial degradation caused by (re)processing, a downgrading validation strategy was applied, assessing the mechanical and water contact performance during fictional first and second service life applications. After the first processing, PEG increased the ductility and reduced the strength and elastic modulus, while NFC buffered the fall in stiffness and increased rigidity compared to their PLA-PEG counterparts. Once reprocessed, PEG increased the water affinity of the blend, especially for low molar mass PEG. Low percentages of NFC (1 and 3 wt%) modulated water diffusivity and permeability, regardless of the water temperature. Overall, although reprocessing caused significant degradation, the mechanical valorization possibilities of these green bionanocomposites were proven, and are pointed out as sustainable candidates for food packaging or agricultural applications where modulated mechanical or water contact behaviors are required.