Soy-Polypropylene Biocomposites for Automotive Applications
Guettler, Barbara Elisabeth
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For the automotive sector, plastics play the most important role when designing interior and exterior parts for cars. Currently, most parts are made from petroleum-based plastics but alternatives are needed to replace environmentally harmful materials while providing the appropriate mechanical performance and preferably reduce the cost for the final product. The objective of this work was to explore the use of soy flakes as natural filler in a composite with polypropylene and to investigate the mechanical properties, water absorption and thermal behaviour. For a better understanding of the filler, the soy flakes were characterized extensively with analytical and microscopic methods. Two types of soy fillers were investigated, soy flakes, provided by Bunge Inc., with a 48 wt-% protein content and an industrial soy based filler with 44 wt-% protein content and provided by Ford. The size of the soy flakes after milling was mainly between 50 and 200 µm and below 50 µm for the industrial filler. The aspect ratio for all filler was below 5. The soy flakes were used after milling and subjected to two pre-treatment methods: (1) one hour in a 50 °C pH 9 water solution in a 1 : 9 solid-liquid ratio; (2) one hour in a 50 °C pH 9 1M NaCl solution in a 1 : 9 solid-liquid ratio. A control filler, without pre-treatment was considered. The soy flakes were also compared to an industrial soy based filler provided by Ford (soy flour (Ford)). The thermogravimetric analysis showed an onset of degradation at 170 °C for the treated filler (ISH2O and ISNaCl) and 160 °C for the untreated filler. The biocomposites formulation consisted of 30 wt-% filler, and polypropylene with/without 0.35 wt-% anti-oxidant Irganox 1010 and with/without the addition of MA-PP as coupling agent. All biocomposites were compounded in a mini-extruder, pressed into bars by injection moulding and tested subsequently. The mechanical properties of the biocomposites are promising. An increase of the E-modulus was observed when compared to pure polypropylene. The addition of MA-PP as coupling agent increased the yield strength of the biocomposites. When pure polypropylene and the biocomposites were compared no difference could be seen for their yield strength. The thermal behaviour deduced from differential scanning calorimetry, revealed a similar behaviour for the biocomposites and the pure polypropylene. Only the samples treated in the presence of NaCl and without a coupling agent, appear to have a slightly higher degree of crystallinity. The melt flow index was slightly increased for the biocomposites containing soy flakes pre-treated with NaCl and decreased for biocomposites containing the soy flour. The water absorption behaviour of the biocomposites was quite similar at the beginning with a slightly lower absorption for the materials with coupling agent. After three months, all samples except the ones treated with water showed a weight loss that can be due to the leaching of the water soluble components in the untreated filler and the NaCl treated filler. In conclusion, soy flakes represent an attractive filler when used in a polypropylene matrix if an aqueous alkaline pre-treatment is performed. The aqueous alkaline extraction also leads to the recovery of the proteins that can be used in food products while the remaining insoluble material is used for the biocomposites, avoiding the competition with the use of soy for food products...