Petroleum-based polymers have made a significant contribution to human society due to their extraordinary adaptability and processability. However, due to the wide-spread application of plastics over the past few decades, there are growing concerns over depleting fossil resources and the undesirable environmental impact of plastics. Most of the petroleum-based plastics are non-biodegradable and thus will be disposed in landfills. Inappropriate disposal of plastics may also become a potential threat to the environment. Many approaches, such as efficient plastics waste management and replacing petroleum-based plastics with biodegradable materials obtained from renewable resources, have been put forth to overcome these problems.
Plastics waste management is at its beginning stages of development which is also more expensive than expected. Thus, there is a growing interest in developing sustainable biobased and biodegradable materials produced from renewable resources such as plants and crops, which can offer comparable performance with additional advantages, such as biodegradability, biocompatibility, and reducing the carbon footprint.
Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV) is one of the most promising biobased and biodegradable polymers, In fact many petroleum based polymers such as poly(propylene) (PP) can be potentially replaced by PHBV because of the similarity in their properties. Despite PHBV's attractive properties, there are many drawbacks such as high cost, brittleness, and thermal instability, which hamper the widespread usage of this specific polymer.
The goals of this study are to investigate various strategies to address these drawbacks, including blending with other biodegradable polymers such as poly (butylene adipate-coterephthalate) (PBAT) or fillers (e.g., coir fiber, recycled wood fiber, and nanofillers) and use of novel processing technologies such as microcellular injection molding technique. Microcellular injection molding technique will not only reduce cost but also improve processability due to the use of supercritical fluid.
Various material properties of the solid (without the foaming agent) and microcellular components (with foaming agent) made of PHBV-based polymer blends or composites were investigated including static mechanical properties (tensile testing), dynamic mechanical properties (dynamic mechanical analysis), thermal properties (differential scanning calorimetry and thermo gravimetric analysis), crystallinity(wide angle X-ray scattering analysis), and morphology (scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy). The composition-processing-structure-property relationship of these solid and microcellular components were established.