ABSTRACT: Chitosan is a biopolymer obtained by N-deacetylation of chitin, produced from shellfish waste, which may be employed to elaborate edible films or coatings to enhance shelf life of food products. This study was conducted to evaluate the effect of different concentrations of nanofiller (cellulose nanofibers, CNF) and plasticizer (glycerol) on tensile properties (tensile strength—TS, elongation at break—EB, and Young's modulus—YM), water vapor permeability (WVP), and glass transition temperature (Tg) of chitosan edible films, and to establish a formulation to optimize their properties. The experiment was conducted according to a central composite design, with 2 variables: CNF (0 to 20 g/100 g) and glycerol (0 to 30 g/100 g) concentrations in the film (on a dry basis), which was produced by the so-called casting technique. Most responses (except by EB) were favored by high CNF concentrations and low glycerol contents. The optimization was based on maximizing TS, YM, and Tg, and decreasing WVP, while maintaining a minimum acceptable EB of 10%. The optimum conditions were defined as: glycerol concentration, 18 g/100 g; and CNF concentration, 15 g/100 g. AFM imaging of films suggested good dispersion of the CNF and good CNF-matrix interactions, which explains the good performance of the nanocomposite films.
Practical Application: Chitosan is a biodegradable polymer which may be used to elaborate edible films or coatings to enhance shelf life of foods. This study demonstrates how cellulose nanofibers (CNF) can improve the mechanical and water vapor barrier properties of chitosan films. A nanocomposite film with 15% CNF and plasticized with 18% glycerol was comparable to some synthetic polymers in terms of strength and stiffness, but with poorer elongation and water vapor barrier, indicating that they can be used for applications that do not require high flexibility and/or water vapor barrier. The more important advantage of such films when compared to synthetic polymer films is their environmentally friendly properties.