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Functional barriers in PET recycled bottles. Part I. Determination of diffusion coefficients in bioriented PET with and without contact with food simulants



A major outcome for recycled plastics consists of making food packaging materials. However, any contamination of collected plastics with chemicals may then be of concern for public health. A solution to mind migration is to use a layer of virgin polymer, named functional barrier, intercalated between the recycled layer and the food. This article aims to provide experimental values of diffusion coefficients (D) of model pollutants (surrogates) in poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) to be used for modeling migration through functional barriers. Diffusion coefficients of a large set of surrogates at low concentrations in PET were measured in various conditions. A solid-to-solid diffusion test was designed to avoid the use of a solvent that may induce plasticizing of the material and partitioning effects at the interface. Using [Log D = f(molecular weight)] correlations, the values of diffusion coefficients and activation energies of the surrogates measured by this method were shown to be consistent with the literature data obtained for gases, in permeation experiments, where no plasticization occurred. Migration from PET into food simulants was then studied. Migration into an aqueous medium is largely influenced by the solubility of the surrogates, the less soluble ones being not detected, despite high D values. With ethanol solvent, there were no partitioning effects, and the high plasticization effect of PET by ethanol considerably increases the apparent diffusion coefficients. The effects of temperature and plasticization on the relationship between diffusion coefficients and molecular weight are discussed. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 92: 2845–2858, 2004

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