Biopolymers, Biomaterials

Enhancing Mechanical Strength and High Temperature Optical Transparency of Polylactic Acid (PLA) through Biobased Self-Reinforced Composites

Saal A
Mittwoch, 11.09.2024, 14:20 - 14:45 Uhr

In Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials (AMIBM) as part of a publicly funded project, we address the limitations of polylactic acid (PLA) in optical applications by proposing the fabrication of biobased self-reinforced composites. These composites aim to enhance PLA's mechanical strength and high-temperature optical transparency while maintaining its recyclability and potential compostability, thereby unlocking its full potential for optical applications.

Conventional petroleum-derived plastics have been favored and extensively utilized in diverse industrial and consumer applications due to their high strength, flexibility and durability. The global plastic market reached USD 624.8 billion in 2023, with a projected 4.2% CAGR from 2024 to 2030. The increasing demand from various industries for sustainable alternatives underscores the critical need to develop biobased materials that offer high performance capabilities. Polylactic acid (PLA) stands out as a promising biobased polyester renowned for its high transparency, making it an attractive candidate for optical applications among others. However, its limited mechanical strength and transparency at elevated temperatures pose challenges for widespread adoption in high-end applications. In this research, in Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials (AMIBM), we propose a novel approach utilizing biobased self-reinforced composites to address these limitations, aiming to improve both mechanical strength and high-temperature optical transparency while maintaining recyclability and industrial compostability. High-performance PLA fibers, characterized by ultra-high stiffness and elevated melting temperatures, were produced using a 600-nozzle pilot-scale electro-spinning equipment and a pilot-scale bicomponent melt-spinning line. These fibers were subsequently integrated into the biobased matrix through injection molding. The proposed biobased self-reinforced composites could present a promising avenue for enhancing the mechanical strength and high-temperature optical transparency of PLA, providing significant progress in the development of sustainable materials suitable for a range of optical applications with better end-of-life options.