Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research is working on the development of industrial films from a blend of thermoplastic starch and polyethylene. The great advantage of the combination of these materials is that they improve the barrier properties of a plastic film. Wageningen UR cooperates with potato-starch and protein cooperation Avebe and chemical company Sabic in this project. The films that will be developed are interesting for applications in (food)packaging.
Polyethylene is very waterproof, but doesn’t have a good barrier to oxygen. Starch has a good oxygen barrier, but it is not water resistant. A good mixture of both materials should form a barrier to oxygen and water. An important advantage is that starch is produced from renewable raw materials such as potatoes. In addition, a cost-efficient production is possible. The combination of both materials in a blend is currently not used for the production of films, but is potentially very interesting. Gradually bio-based films should replace the existing petroleum-made films.
Three research questions
According to project leader Frans Kappen from Wageningen, the researchers focus primarily on three key questions: "First, we want to know what the most important factors are to make a good blend. The flow properties of both components must be coordinated. Next, we want to develop concepts to reduce the moisture sensitivity of this type of blends. And finally, we want to ensure that the different components in the blend have a good cohesion with each other. We must solve these research questions in order to ensure that the film forms the desired barrier to both water and oxygen, that the film is strong enough and that it doesn’t delaminate."
Part of BPM program
The SPECIFIC project is part of a major research program: Biobased Performance Materials (BPM). The objective of this program is to develop high-quality materials from biomass. These materials are applied on an increasingly larger scale in practice. The research focuses on two types of materials: polymers that plants make themselves and polymers from bio-based building blocks that are created through biotechnology or chemical catalysis. BPM is co-financed from the Top Sector Chemistry and is led by Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research.