Journal of Materials Science

, Volume 54, Issue 19, pp 12533–12552 | Cite as

Design and mechanistic understanding of graphene oxide reinforced zein nanocomposites with improved mechanical, barrier and thermal properties

  • Tahrima B. Rouf
  • Gudrun Schmidt
  • Mukerrem Cakmak
  • Jozef L. KokiniEmail author
Composites & nanocomposites


Graphene oxide (GO)-based zein nanocomposite films with superior mechanical, barrier and thermal properties were fabricated by incorporating GO nanoparticles into corn protein zein (Z), through the solvent casting process. The study offers a mechanistic understanding of the effect of graphene oxide nanofiller on the physicochemical properties of zein. TEM of the zein–graphene oxide (Z–GO) nanocomposites showed uniform dispersion of GO sheets up to 1%GO loading. Mechanisms for Z–GO nanocomposite formation through covalent and noncovalent bonding are developed based on FTIR, FT-Raman and DSC results. At only 3% loading, the Young’s modulus of a nanocomposite film increased by 300% and tensile strength increased by 80%. The increases in mechanical property improvements are accompanied by surface roughness increases as indicated by AFM studies. Even though GO is hydrophilic, the Z–GO nanocomposite films showed hydrophobic tendencies. The amount and degree of exfoliation of GO as well as the relative orientation of GO nanoparticles within the zein film all play an important role in the physical property changes of the film. The films became less permeable with increasing amounts of GO addition, as shown by water vapor permeability tests. GO increased thermal stability as shown by TGA.



The authors would like to thank Dr. Christopher Gilpin and Laurie Mueller for their assistance with TEM experiments. We would like to acknowledge USDA Hatch Funds and the Scholle Endowment for financial support of this work.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10853_2019_3817_MOESM1_ESM.docx (532 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 532 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Food SciencePurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  3. 3.School of Materials and Mechanical EngineeringPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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