The effect on the physical properties and solubility of corn protein (zein) films was studied after reaction of zein with polyethylenemaleic anhydride (PEMA). Reactions were carried out in dimethylformamide (DMF) solution where the concentration of PEMA was varied between 0 and 6%. After reaction at room temperature, cast films were prepared, and the physical and solubility properties were determined. Incorporating more than 2% PEMA provided films with increased tensile strength and elongation. Incorporating 6% PEMA provided films with higher tensile strength (32–42 MPa) and improved solvent resistance (100–21% solubility) relative to control. If the films were heated in an oven, the film's solubility decreased further. Solution rheology experiments demonstrated that the zein and PEMA formed a cross-linked gel with time in DMF. Dynamic mechanical analysis experiments have shown that the PEMA-modified zein films undergo a dramatic loss in modulus on reaching 116°C, whereas the control experiences this loss at 98°C. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 40122.
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