• graft copolymerization;
  • cassava starch;
  • acrylonitrile;
  • response surface design;
  • thermal properties;
  • glass transition temperature;
  • superabsorbent polymer


Graft copolymerization of poly(acrylonitrile) onto cassava starch was carried out with potassium persulphate (PPS) as the free radical initiator using a response surface Box–Behnken design. Different levels of monomer concentration, initiator concentration, and temperature were used, and regression models were generated in terms of these factors, which can be used to predict the grafting level and efficiency at a given level of the factors. The grafted starches were characterized by FTIR, XRD, and SEM analyses and determination of %grafting (%G), N-content, thermal properties, water and saline solution retention, and rheological properties. Under the conditions used, %G was found to depend only on the temperature used for the reaction. The maximum %G of 120.1 was obtained for the sample synthesized under the following conditions: weight of AN = 0.753 mol/10 g starch, weight of PPS = 0.284 g and temperature = 55°C, and the grafting efficiency was 30.03%. The absorption bands at 2243 cm−1 for the nitrile group ([BOND]CN) in the FTIR spectra of the products confirmed the grafting reaction. There was a decrease in crystallinity and disappearance of the granular structure after grafting of the starch. The melting temperatures of the graft copolymers determined by differential scanning calorimetry analysis were higher than that of the native starch. The grafted starches exhibited very high thermal stability as observed from the thermogravimetric analysis. The superabsorbent polymer prepared from the grafted starch by alkali saponification exhibited a maximum water absorbency of 636 g/g. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci, 2011