Iranian researchers from Isfahan University of Technology used wheat proteins to produce a new generation of biodegradable nanocomposites with applications in different industries, specially packaging industry.
Petroleum-based plastics have so far been widely used in packaging industry due to their ease of availability, relatively appropriate price and good mechanical performance. The consumption of plastics has been lately announced to be more than 200 million tons with annual growth rate of about 5%. It is the second major application of crude oil after transportation. Therefore, it is necessary to find appropriate replacement for the plastics.
In line with improving the mechanical, thermal, and prohibition properties of biodegradable films, wheat gluten was used in this research by applying carboxylated cellulose nanocrystals (C.CNC).
Among the reasons for selecting wheat protein, mention can be made of its reasonable price, ease of availability, biodegradability, and appropriate properties for film creation.
The use of nanoparticles has been reported as a simple and effective method for strengthening polymers. High activity of nanoparticles facilitates the creation of bonds between them and the active group in the polymer molecular chain, and it improves the mechanical properties and thermal stability. This research takes an important step towards the replacement of synthetic films with biodegradable films by improving the properties of gluten films by using carboxylated cellulose nanocrystals.
Among the advantages of application of the abovementioned nanocrystals in the structure of the film, mention can be made of significant improvement in mechanical properties such as tension power of the polymer and mechano-dynamic properties, including its storage modules. Reduction in water solubility and diffusivity against steam, which are among very important characteristics of the polymer used in packaging industry, are among other advantages of creating changes in the structure of the film.
Results of the research have been published in Industrial Crops and Products, vol. 53, issue 1, 2014, pp. 282-288.