Journal of Polymers and the Environment

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 638–646 | Cite as

Tensile Strength, Elongation, Hardness, and Tensile and Flexural Moduli of PLA Filled with Glycerol-Plasticized DDGS

Original Paper


Rapid growth of the biofuel industry is generating large amounts of coproducts such as distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) from ethanol production and glycerol from biodiesel. Currently these coproducts are undervalued, but they have application in the plastics industry as property modifiers. The objective of this research effort is to quantify the effects on mechanical properties of adding DDGS and glycerol to polylactic acid (PLA). The methodology was to physically mix DDGS, as filler, with PLA pellets and injection mold the blends into test bars using glycerol as a plasticizer. The bars were subject to mechanical testing procedures to obtain tensile strength, tensile and flexural moduli, elongation to break, and surface hardness of blends from 0 to 90 %, by weight, of plasticized filler. Blends were typically relatively brittle with little or no yielding prior to fracture, and the addition of glycerol enabled molding of blends with high levels of DDGS but did not increase strength. Any presence of filler decreased the tensile strength of the PLA, and 20–30 % filler reduced strength by 60 %. The 35–50 % filled PLA had about one-fifth the value for pure PLA; at 60–65 % filler level, about 10 % tensile strength remained; and over 80 % filler, 95 % of the strength was lost. Over 20 % filler, the tensile modulus decreased. The 35 % plasticized, filled blend yielded about one-half the stiffness as the pure PLA case; flexural modulus trended in the same manner but demonstrated a greater loss of stiffness. Most blends had less than 3 % elongation to break while surface hardness measurements indicated that up to 60 % filler reduced Shore D hardness by less than 20 %. The tensile strength and modulus data are consistent with the findings of other researchers and indicate that the type of filler and amount and sequence of plasticization are secondary effects, and the total PLA displaced is the dominant factor in determining the mechanical strength of the PLA and DDGS blends. Up to 65 % plasticized DDGS filler can be injection molded, and sufficient mechanical strength exists to create a variety of products. Such a novel material provides higher-value utilization of the biofuel coproducts of glycerol and DDGS and maintains the biodegradable and biocompatible nature of PLA.


Biofiller DDGS Glycerol Mechanical properties PLA 



This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, under agreement No. 58-5447-0-346. Any opinions, findings, conclusion, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; mention of a trade name, proprietary product, or specific equipment does not constitute a guarantee or warranty by the United States Department of Agriculture and does not imply approval of a product to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. This work was also supported by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant SU-83473601.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of TechnologyNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA

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