Biodegradation of sequentially surface treated lignocellulose reinforced polylactic acid composites: carbon dioxide evolution and morphology


Way, Cameron; Dean, Katherine; Wu, Dong Yang; Palombo, Enzo


Maple fibres were treated with a variety of sequential treatments, namely sodium hydroxide (NaOH), NaOH followed by acetylation, or NaOH followed by silanation. These fibres were incorporated into a polylactic acid (PLA) composite and the biodegradation effects were investigated. After 124 days, all composites had exceeded 90% biodegradation with most close to 100%. The PLA composite with the NaOH-treated fibres had the quickest onset of degradation (4.9 days) and highest peak rate of degradation (1.77% biodegradation/day) of all composites studied. Neat PLA had a similarly high peak rate of degradation at 1.85% biodegradation/day, but had a later onset of 11 days. Gel permeation chromatography (GPC) analysis showed the earlier onset of degradation of the composites was caused by increased hydrolysis during composite fabrication as well as composting. GPC showed the formation of up to three molecular weight bands in the PLA during composting which were hypothesised to be occurring by surface hydrolysis, bulk hydrolysis and hydrolysis at the fibre interface. Analysing the remaining composite revealed the NaOH treatment not only caused an increased rate of degradation in the PLA through increase fibre porosity, but also caused an increased rate of degradation in the fibre from the lack of surface waxes and hemicellulose. Similar, yet slower, behaviours were also seen in the NaOH followed by acetylation and NaOH followed by silane treated composites with all composites degrading more rapidly than the neat PLA and neat maple fibre samples.

Publication year


Publication type

Journal article


Polymer Degradation and Stability, Vol. 97, no. 3 (Mar 2012), pp. 430-438






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