As a renewable and biodegradable polymer, polylactide (PLA) has taken a foothold in the packaging industry. However, the thermomechanical and barrier properties of PLA-based films need to be improved to facilitate a wider adoption. To address this challenge, we examined the effect of talc reinforcement in composites based on PLA and a biodegradable polyester. Masterbatches of the polymers and talc were produced by melt compounding and processed by either injection-molding or film extrusion in a pilot-scale unit operating at 60–80 m/min. The effect of talc was investigated in relation to the morphological, thermal, mechanical, and barrier properties of the composites. Based on SEM-imaging, talc was found to increase the miscibility of PLA and the polyester while acting as a nucleating agent that improved PLA crystallinity. While this effect did not track with an increased mechanical strength, the composites with 3–4 wt% talc displayed a significantly higher barrier to water vapor. Compared to the neat polymer films, a reduction of water vapor transmission rate, by ~34–37%, was observed at 23°C/50% RH. Meanwhile, the systems loaded with 1 wt% talc showed a reduction in oxygen transmission rates, by up to 34%. Our results highlight the challenges and prospects of commercial PLA-based blends filled with talc from films extruded in pilot-scale units.
- biopolymers and renewable polymers