The effects of crystalline morphology and presence of nanoparticles such as cellulose nanofibers (CNFs), organically modified nanoclay (C30B), or a combination of both on water vapor sorption and diffusion in polylactide (PLA) were evaluated by a quartz spring microbalance (QSM). It was found that the large spherulite size induced by high-temperature processing leads to an increase in water sorption and a substantial reduction of diffusion with increasing crystallinity. Contrarily, small-sized spherulites, arising after low-temperature processing during solvent-casting, showed a different behavior with a slight decrease in both water vapor sorption and diffusion with increasing crystallinity. These observations suggest that solvent-casting at low temperatures should not be used to predict the properties a material will show after industrial-scale processing. From the analysis of the nanocomposite materials, it was concluded that nanoparticles affected the material′s properties not only by themselves but also by modifying the crystalline morphology. Interestingly, this led to CNF showing similar performance to C30B, decreasing water diffusivity (21 vs 27%) on isothermally crystallized materials despite its less favorable geometry. Additionally, the incorporation of 1 wt % CNF and C30B decreased water vapor transmission rate (WVTR) by 24% under an amorphous state but by 44% in a crystallized state, which makes hybrid CNF/C30B composites a promising food packaging material.
Trifol, J., Plackett, D., Szabo, P., Daugaard, A. E., & Giacinti Baschetti, M. (2020). Effect of Crystallinity on Water Vapor Sorption, Diffusion, and Permeation of PLA-Based Nanocomposites. ACS Omega, 5(25), 15362-15369. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsomega.0c01468