Composite film structures of common plastic polymers including polypropylene (PP) or poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC) with whey protein isolate (WPI) coatings may be obtained by a casting method. Optical and surface properties of the resulting WPI-coated plastic films, as affected by protein concentration and plasticizer type, were investigated to examine the biopolymer coating effects on surface modification with polymeric substrates of opposite polarity. The measured properties involved specular gloss, color, contact angle, and critical surface energy. Regardless of the substrates, WPI-coated films possessed excellent gloss and no color, as well as good adhesion between the coating and the substrate when an appropriate plasticizer was added to the coating formulations. The protein concentration did not significantly affect gloss of WPI-coated plastic films. Among five plasticizers applied, sucrose conferred the most highly reflective and homogeneous surfaces to the coated films. The WPI coatings were very transparent and the coated films with various protein concentrations and plasticizers showed no noticeable changes in color. Experimental results suggest that WPI coatings formulated with a proper plasticizer can improve the visual characteristics of the polymeric substrate and enhance water wettability of the coated plastic films. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 92: 335–343, 2004
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