MODIFICATION OF NATURAL POLYMERS BY NOVEL PROCESSES
Location: Plant Polymer Research
Project Number: 3620-41000-160-00
Start Date: Dec 17, 2010
End Date: Nov 30, 2015
The long-term objective of this project is to develop processes to enhance the conversion of cereal crops and residues into value added polymers, demonstrate the useful properties and applications of these biobased materials, reduce dependence on petroleum and increase utilization of environmentally friendly renewable resources. Objective 1: Develop technologies that enable commercially viable products composed of lipid and amylose or modified starch complexes with novel micro- and nano-sized spherulitic morphologies; Objective 2: Develop reactive extrusion-based technologies that enable commercially viable graft co-polymers from starches and lignocellulosics; Objective 3: Develop novel chemical and thermal processes that enable the commercially viable production of derivatives of starches, lignins, and lignocellulosics; Objective 4: Develop novel biocatalytic processes to produce commercially viable derivatives of starches, lignins, and/or lignocellulosics.
New biobased products and sustainable processing technologies are needed to replace industrial and consumer products made from petroleum based feedstocks. This project focuses on making polymeric materials with a variety of useful applications from starch and associated low cost coproducts of corn processing and harvesting. In order to accomplish this, modified biopolymers with new or improved properties need to be prepared and processing technologies which are more efficient, i.e. use safer or less solvent, are faster, have more complete reaction and fewer byproducts need to be developed. Specific objectives for this project include: 1) prepare novel spherulitic starch-polymer composites via jet-cooking; 2) prepare starch graft copolymers with controlled structure by reactive extrusion and evaluate applications; 3) prepare modified starches, celluloses and lignins with novel structures via processing with ionic liquids, microwaves and autoclave heating; and 4) prepare new starch and lignin graft copolymers as well as polyglutamic acid and polyhydroxyalkanoates by enzymatic and microbial catalysis. Overall, this research will lead to biobased polymer products which will have new or improved properties, have lower cost, are more environmentally friendly and thus will be more acceptable to consumer markets.