B-Cyclodextrins as Nucleating Agents for Polylactide (PLA)

 

Introduction

 

Polylactic acid (PLA) is growing rapidly in popularity as an alternative to petroleum-derived plastics for packaging and other applications. It is biodegradable, thermoplastic, and derived from renewable resources. However, there are characteristics associated with PLA that limit its workability. Particularly, the slow crystallization rate of PLA makes it difficult to process for injection molding and extruding when compared with many other thermoplastics. Nucelating agents are known to increase crystallization rates, and in fact, many have been explored for use with PLA. However, many of the compounds explored as nucleating agents for PLA are not ideal for food contact. Hence, there is a need for food-safe nucleating agents that will significantly improve the crystallization rate of PLA.

 

Description of Technology

 

This invention provides a method for using B-cyclodextrins as nucleating agents for PLA. The B-cyclodextrins confer high crystallinity, high crystallization rate, good clarity, and non-coloring to the base polymer. Furthermore, the nucleating agents are food-safe and can be incorporated into PLA packaging intended for food applications. The invention also provides a bioplastics formulation which incorporates B-cyclodextrins loaded with plant volatiles possessing antifungal activity (see Technology Listing 06073) to control fungal rot of postharvest fruit. Additionally, the nucleating agents can function as a binding agent for ripening agents or other decay inhibitors for fruit.

 

Key Benefits

  • Enables improved workability and higher performance of PLA: The B-cyclodextrins have been shown to significantly increase the crystallization rate of the PLA without impacting clarity. Also, higher resistance is achieved when using these compounds as nucleating agents.
  • Enables totally biodegradable packaging that is food-safe: Both PLA and B-cyclodextrins are starch-based products that are biodegradable and accepted for use with food. 
  • Enables crop lost prevention and prolonged shelf-life of postharvest fruit: While serving as nucleating agents, the B-cyclodextrins can be loaded with plant volatiles possessing antifungal activity (see Technology Listing 06073) to control fungal rot of postharvest fruit.

 

Applications

 

This invention is useful for improving the workability of PLA films intended for food applications. Specifically, the invention is useful for enabling a totally biodegradable film capable of extending the shelf-life of postharvest fruit and potentially other foods items.

 

Patent Status

 

Patent pending

 

Inventors

 

Eva Almenar, Rafael Auras, Bruce Harte, Maria Rubino

 

Tech ID

 

TEC2008-0011

 

Patent Information: