• biodegradable;
  • mechanical properties;
  • composites


One commercial type of fumed silica modified with methoxy polyethylene glycol (mPEG) plasticizer was incorporated into polylactic acid (PLA) biobased polymer to improve its performance. The modification on silica was confirmed through Fourier transform infrared spectra, nuclear magnetic resonance, and TGA assessments. The grafting percentage of mPEG onto silica was about 19.8 wt %. Transmission electron microscope revealed a similar degree of dispersion for control silica and modified silica-filled PLA nanocomposites. Not much difference in the glass transition temperatures at various silica contents was found for PLA/control silica systems from the differential scanning calorimetry measurement, but the glass transition temperature of PLA/modified silica nanocomposite at 10 phr of modified silica showed up to 11°C decrement. It was suggested that the mPEG plasticizer efficiently plasticized the PLA matrix through the enhanced segmental mobility of PLA chains. Young's modulus of PLA was about 2133 ± 53 MPa, and the value for the nanocomposite increased to 2547 ± 54 MPa at 10 of phr control silica mainly due to the reinforcing effect from nanoparticles. For modified silica, Young's modulus decreased at various silica contents. The elongation at break for modified silica-filled cases was higher than that of control silica-filled cases. These results were attributed to the plasticizing effect of surface modifier. Optical transmittance for pristine PLA was generally in a similar order as PLA/control silica and modified silica cases at various silica contents. The results agreed with the morphology observation as well. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci., 2013