Depletion of fossil fuels and the detrimental environmental impacts of synthetic plastics have prompted a global interest in bio-based polymers. Lignin is an abundant, unused, and low-value byproduct of pulping and biochemical operations that has the potential to decrease the need for plastics derived from petroleum. Melt blending is one of the easiest strategies for expanding the commercial applications of lignin. Concerns remain, however, regarding the negative effects of lignin on the final composite material’s performance, and the increase in manufacturing costs. This study investigates the effects of blending lignin extracted from tobacco using a novel one-step processing technique on injection molding parameters, and the mechanical, physical, and thermal properties of high-density polyethylene (HDPE). By extruding HDPE pellets and lignin powder, varying blend concentrations (0, 5, 10, 15, and 30% wt.) were produced. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and optical microscopy were used to investigate the compatibility of the blend morphology. Results indicated that interfacial interactions were achieved as particles of tobacco lignin were well dispersed and uniformly distributed throughout HDPE. Intermolecular interactions between HDPE and lignin were also discovered through Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectral analyses. The tensile test results showed that increase in lignin content up to 15% wt. had little effect on tensile strength, but at 30% wt., a 19% reduction was observed. With the addition of 5, 10, 15, and 30% wt. of lignin, the tensile modulus increased by 4%, 29%, 25%, and 8%, respectively. TGA results demonstrated that at 15% and 30% wt., tobacco lignin acted as a thermal stabilizer. The processability study revealed that tobacco lignin could be processed easily using injection molding without requiring significant changes to the process parameters. Overall, tobacco lignin showed great promise as a biodegradable HDPE filler.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) for supplying the novel tobacco lignin materials. We also thank Alexey Kacharov, Sergiy Yemet, and Eric Singsaas from NRRI for their support.
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
- tobacco lignin
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article