A Dutch research team is aiming to develop a range of industrial films made from a blend of thermoplastic starch and polyethylene.
Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research believes the combination of these materials will improve the barrier properties of plastic film, which is commonly used to package fresh produce.
Project leader Frans Kappen said polyethylene is very waterproof but doesn’t have a good barrier to oxygen. On the other hand, starch has a good oxygen barrier but is not water resistant. Food & Biobased Research hopes a mixture of both materials will form a strong 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,” Food & Biobased Research said in a statement.
The combination of both materials in a blend is currently not used for the production of plastic films. Kappen believes bio-based films could replace existing petroleum-made films in the near future.
Kappen said his team’s research will primarily focus 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,” he explained.
“Next, we want to develop concepts to reduce the moisture sensitivity of this type of blends. 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.”
Food & Biobased Research is a division of Wageningen UR (University & Research centre).