Journal of Polymers and the Environment

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 54–70 | Cite as

Processing Stability and Biodegradation of Polylactic Acid (PLA) Composites Reinforced with Cotton Linters or Maple Hardwood Fibres

  • Cameron Way
  • Dong Yang Wu
  • Darren Cram
  • Katherine Dean
  • Enzo Palombo
Original Paper


Polylactic acid (PLA) composites comprising up to 25 wt% cotton linter (CL) or up to 50 % maple wood fibre (WF) were prepared by compounding and injection moulding. A reduction of crystallinity in the PLA matrix was observed as a result of the thermal processing method. These PLACL and PLAWF composites provided excellent improvements in both stiffness (with increases in tensile and flexural modulus) and toughness (increases in notched impact strength) properties over the neat PLA resin, while the tensile and flexural strengths of the composites were generally unchanged, while the strain at break values were reduced in comparison to the neat PLA. DMA results indicated incorporating these fibres caused the mechanical loss factor (tan δ) to decrease, suggesting better damping capabilities were achieved with the composites. SEM analysis of the impact fractured surfaces of the PLACL composites showed debonding-cavitation at the matrix-fibre interface while the PLAWF composites showed good wetting along its matrix-fibre interface. The composting of these composites up to 90 days showed that the degradation onset time was increased when increasing the fibre loadings, but the maximum degree of degradation and the maximum daily rates of degradation were decreased compared to neat PLA. On a weight basis of fibre loading, the PLACL composites had a quicker onset of biodegradation, a higher maximum daily rate of biodegradation and, overall, a higher degree of biodegradation at 90 days than the PLAWF composites, possibly due to the quicker thermal hydrolysis observed in the PLA matrix of the PLACL composites during processing and composting.


Cotton linters Maple fibres Polylactic acid (PLA) Thermomechanical properties Scanning electron microscopy Biodegradation Composting 



The authors gratefully acknowledge Buckeye Technologies Inc. (USA) for supplying the cotton linter fibres free of charge, and for providing relevant technical information.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cameron Way
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dong Yang Wu
    • 3
  • Darren Cram
    • 1
  • Katherine Dean
    • 1
  • Enzo Palombo
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of Materials Science and EngineeringCSIROClayton SouthAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Life and Social Sciences, Environment and Biotechnology CentreSwinburne University of TechnologyHawthornAustralia
  3. 3.The Boeing CompanyPort MelbourneAustralia

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