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Keywords:

  • crystallization;
  • injection molding;
  • nucleation;
  • biopolymers

Abstract

Currently, use of poly(lactic acid) (PLA) for injection molded articles is limited for commercial applications because PLA has a slow crystallization rate when compared with many other thermoplastics as well as standard injection molding cycle times. The overall crystallization rate and final crystallinity of PLA were controlled by the addition of physical nucleating agents as well as optimization of injection molding processing conditions. Talc and ethylene bis-stearamide (EBS) nucleating agents both showed dramatic increases in crystallization rate and final crystalline content as indicated by isothermal and nonisothermal crystallization measurements. Isothermal crystallization half-times were found to decrease nearly 65-fold by the addition of only 2% talc. Process changes also had a significant effect on the final crystallinity of molded neat PLA, which was shown to increase from 5 to 42%. The combination of nucleating agents and process optimization not only resulted in an increase in final injection molded crystallinity level, but also allowed for a decreased processing time. An increase of over 30°C in the heat distortion temperature and improved strength and modulus by upwards of 25% were achieved through these material and process changes. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci, 2008