High-Strength Bio-Degradable Polymer Foams with Stable High Volume-Expansion Ratio Using Chain Extension and Green Supercritical Mixed-Gas Foaming
The preparation of biodegradable polymer foams with a stable high volume-expansion ratio (VER) is challenging. For example, poly (butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT) foams have a low melt strength and high shrinkage. In this study, polylactic acid (PLA), which has a high VER and crystallinity, was added to PBAT to reduce shrinkage during the supercritical molded-bead foaming process. The epoxy chain extender ADR4368 was used both as a chain extender and a compatibilizer to mitigate the linear chain structure and incompatibility and improve the foamability of PBAT. The branched-chain structure increased the energy-storage modulus (G&rsquo;) and complex viscosity (&eta;*), which are the key factors for the growth of cells, by 1&ndash;2 orders of magnitude. Subsequently, we innovatively used the CO2 and N2 composite gas method. The foam-shrinkage performance was further inhibited; the final foam had a VER of 23.39 and a stable cell was obtained. Finally, after steam forming, the results showed that the mechanical strength of the PBAT/PLA blended composite foam was considerably improved by the addition of PLA. The compressive strength (50%), bending strength, and fracture load by bending reached 270.23 kPa, 0.36 MPa, and 23.32 N, respectively. This study provides a potential strategy for the development of PBAT-based foam packaging materials with stable cell structure, high VER, and excellent mechanical strength.