Biodegradable films of partly branched Poly(L-lactide)-co-poly(epsilon-caprolactone) copolymer: Modulation of phase morphology, plasticization properties and thermal depolymerization

Jenny Borström, Annika Boss, Ioannis S. Chronakis

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


We report on the modulation of phase morphology, plasticization properties, and thermal stability of films of partly branched poly(L-lactide)-co-poly(is an element of-caprolactone) copolymer (PLLA-co-PCL) with additions of low molecular weight compounds, namely, triethyl citrate ester, diethyl phthalate, diepoxy polyether (poly(propylene glycol) diglycidyl ether), and with epoxidized soybean oil (ESO). The PLLA-co-PCL/polyether films showed significant stability against thermal depolymerization. high film flexibility, and good plasticizing properties, probably due to cross-linking and chain branching formation between diepoxy groups with both the end carboxyl and hydroxyl groups of the PLLA copolymer (initially present or generated during the degradation process) to produce primary ester and ether bonds, respectively. Diethyl phthalate and triethyl citrate ester were found to be efficient plasticizers for PLLA copolymer in terms of glass transition and mechanical properties, but the more water-soluble plasticizer triethyl citrate induced a dramatic loss in the molecular weight of the copolymer. Although ESO cannot play the role of a plasticizer, it substantially stabilizes and retards thermal depolymerization of the PLLA copolymer matrix, possibly because of a reaction between epoxy groups with the end carboxyl and hydroxyl groups of the PLLA copolymer. The presence of ESO in PLLA-co-PCL/ESO/triethyl citrate blends enhanced the compatibility and miscibility of the plasticizer with the PLLA copolymer matrix, considerably improved the mechanical properties (elongation at break), and substantially stabilized the copolymer against thermal depolymerization. It seems likely that the epoxy groups interact not only with the end hydroxyl and carboxyl group of the copolymer but as well with the hydroxyl group of triethyl citrate plasticizer to produce a new ether bond (C-O-C) as the crosslinking unit. On the other hand, for PLLA-co-PCL/ESO/polyether blends, (80/10/10) epoxidized oil distorts the compactness of the blend by diminishing the proposed entanglements between carboxyl, hydroxyl, and diepoxy groups of polyether and reduces the high elongation properties otherwise observed in the PLLA-co-PCL/polyether films. The multicomponent approach toward modulating poly(L-lactide)-co-poly(is an element of-caprolactone) copolymer films using epoxy compounds and plasticizers and the insight into the nature of various PLLA matrixes presented here offer advantages to a broad engineering of PLLA copolymer films having desirable physical properties and multiphase behavior for efficient uses in future technical applications.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)1124-1134
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

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