The effect of plasticizers, glycerol, sorbitol and poly(ethylene glycol) 400 (PEG 400), on mechanical and barrier properties of rice starch film has been investigated. Sorbitol- and glycerol-plasticized starch films appeared homogeneous, clear, smooth, and contained less insoluble particles compared to unplasticized rice starch films. PEG 400 did not form plasticized films of suitable characteristics. The softness and stickiness of films improved with increasing concentrations of glycerol and sorbitol. In general, films plasticized with glycerol and sorbitol displayed a better solubility in water than unplasticized films, i.e. 35% (w/w) glycerol and 45% w/w (sorbitol) (optimum solubility). The tensile strength of films decreased especially in the high concentration regime of plasticizers, between 20–45% (w/w) of plasticizer/rice starch film. Through the entire concentration regime, the tensile strength of glycerol-plasticized films was significantly lower than that of sorbitol-plasticized films, but their elongation was larger. The water vapor transmission rate (WVTR) through plasticized films and the oxygen transmission rate (OTR) increased with glycerol and sorbitol concentrations, however, glycerol was revealed to be significantly more effective in reducing the tensile strength as well as increasing the WVTR and the OTR compared to sorbitol. With the higher tensile strength and the smaller OTR and WVTR, the 30% sorbitol-plasticized film reveals an improved coating performance in terms of a reduction of coating failures.
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