Effect of lignin acetylation on the mechanical properties of lignin-poly-lactic acid biocomposites for advanced applications

Matilda Johansson, Mikael Skrifvars, Nawar Kadi, Hom Nath Dhakal

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Bioplastics that possess characteristics like durability and low cost are desired for versatile applications in industries such as automotive manufacturing, marine transport manufacturing, aerospace applications, and the building industry. The automotive industry is an example of an industry that is now shifting towards a more focused approach addressing the issue concerning sustainability and the development of sustainable material. To achieve a lightweight and sustainable construction, one of the methods used by the automotive original equipment manufacturers is by substituting conventional fossil-based, non-renewable composites, and metallic materials with a bio-based alternative. One of the drawbacks with biobased polymers can be the poor interfacial adhesion, leading to poor mechanical properties when compares to conventional material. The aim of this research is to investigate if a low-cost by-product could be used as a component in a composite matrix material in the automotive industry to reduce the final weight and increase the non-petrochemical material usage of composite material without compromising the thermal and mechanicals properties demanded. In this research, lignin was chemically altered by esterification the functional groups to increase the compatibility with polylactic acid. The esterification was performed with the use of acetic acid anhydride and pyridine. To evaluate and determine the esterification, Fourier transform Infrared Spectroscopy was used. By blending the modified lignin with polylactic acid the intention was to improve the thermomechanical properties and the interfacial linkage between the components. The effects of lignin acetylation on the tensile properties, impact strength, and thermal stability and moisture repellence behaviour were investigated. According to the experimental results the modification of lignin, increased the impact strength for all the blends containing acetylated lignin compares to pristine lignin. The largest increase observed was for blends containing 20 wt% acetylated lignin and polylactic acid, which resulted in a 74% improvement compared with the blend composed of pristine lignin and polylactic acid. Similarly, the thermal stability was improved significantly with acetylation of the lignin. Moreover, the moisture repellence behaviour was also increased. The reason for the improved properties can be explained by the better interfacial compatibility between lignin and polylactic acid matrix. An increased thermal stability and a moisture repellent behaviour of the blends containing chemically modified lignin could be observed when compared with neat polylactic acid which makes the acetylation treatment of lignin a possible approach for the future of biocomposite production.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117049
Number of pages11
JournalIndustrial Crops and Products
Early online date19 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2023


  • acetylation
  • biocomposites
  • impact toughness
  • lignin
  • polylactic acid

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