Stiffening, strengthening, and toughening of biodegradable poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) with a low nanoinclusion usage

Lei Lai, Songlin Wang, Jiaxu Li, Pingwei Liu, Linbo Wu, Haiqiang Wu, Jinlong Xu, Steven J. Severtson, Wen Jun Wang

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32 Scopus citations


Simultaneous stiffening, strengthening, and toughening of biodegradable polymers, such as poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT) and others, is necessary for their use in packaging and agriculture applications. However, a high content of nanoinclusions is usually required, leading to a tradeoff between composite toughness and strength or stiffness in the reinforcement. Herein, we report an iterative reinforcement strategy that uses one nanocomposite to reinforce PBAT. An in-situ grafting polymerized cellulose nanocrystal (CNC)/PBAT (CNC-g-PBAT) nanocomposite consisting of ungrafted/free PBAT (PBATf) was used as an inclusion directly to reinforce a commercial PBAT. At an exceptionally low CNC usage of 0.02 wt.%, we achieved a simultaneous enhancement of the Young's modulus by 26 %, tensile strength by 27 %, elongation at break by 37 %, and toughness by 56 % over those for PBAT. To the best of our knowledge, such reinforcement efficiency is the highest among similar biodegradable polymer nanocomposites reported in the literature. The rheology, differential scanning calorimetry, and wide-angle X-ray diffraction measurements confirmed the mechanical reinforcement attributed to a synergistic contribution from PBATf and CNC-g-PBAT. In particular, the use of PBATf enhanced both stiffness and toughness of the composites, while the CNC-g-PBAT interacted within the polymer matrix and increased the crystallinity of the polymer matrix, leading to the strengthening and toughening effect. The strategy proposed here is greatly beneficial to producing high-performance biodegradable polymer nanocomposite films for packaging and agricultural applications using a very low amount of nanoinclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116687
JournalCarbohydrate Polymers
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Nation Key Research and Development Program of China ( 2016YFB0302400 ), Zhejiang Hengyi Petrochemicals Co. Ltd ( HY20190101 ), the National Natural Science Foundation of China ( 51903218 ), Zhejiang Provincial Natural Science Foundation of China ( LR20B060002 ), and the Chinese State Key Laboratory of Chemical Engineering at Zhejiang University ( SKLChE-19D02 and SKL-ChE-19T0 3).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Biodegradable polymer
  • Cellulose nanocrystal
  • Mechanical reinforcement
  • Nanocomposite
  • Poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate)


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