Study on the structure and properties of nanocomposites based on high-density polyethylene/starch blends
The effects of nanoclay on the structure and final properties of high density polyethylene (HDPE)/thermoplastic starch (TPS) blends were investigated. Neat blends as well as nanoclay containing samples were prepared by melt blending in an internal mixer. Also, a poly (ethylene-g-maleic anhydride) (PE-g-MA) copolymer was used as compatibilizer in some of the formulations. Nanocomposites with intercalated structures were obtained in the samples lacking the compatibilizer, based on the rheological, X-ray diffraction (XRD) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) results. However, some of the silicate layers were nearly exfoliated in the presence of the compatibilizer. The nanoclay was located preferably in the HDPE matrix as well as at the interface of the HDPE matrix and TPS dispersed phase. The ability of the nanoclays in decreasing the average size of TPS phase in the HDPE matrix was confirmed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) observations. Furthermore, thermo-gravimetric analysis (TGA) showed that the nanoclays could enhance the thermal stability of the samples. It seems that nanoclays performed as an insulator and mass transport barrier to the small molecules generated during decomposition, and assisted in the formation of char after thermal decomposition of the polymer matrix. All the samples containing the compatibilizer possessed higher tensile strength and elongation at break, but lower modulus, compared to the corresponding un-compatibilized samples. Finally, incorporation of the nanoclays was found to be in favor of developing nanocomposites with higher biodegradability as evidenced through a biodegradation test by fungi as well as water uptake experiments.
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