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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Plant Polymer Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #290981

Title: Improved zein films using polyethylenemaleic anhdyride

item Selling, Gordon
item Utt, Kelly

Submitted to: Journal of Applied Polymer Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/29/2013
Publication Date: 11/16/2013
Publication URL:
Citation: Selling, G.W., Utt, K.D. 2013. Improved zein films using polyethylenemaleic anhdyride. Journal of Applied Polymer Science. DOI: 10,1002/app.40122.

Interpretive Summary: In this research, we discovered that zein (corn protein from bioethanol production) can be modified with a reactive polymer to provide material with improved strength and reduced sensitivity to liquids. Zein is the main component in, DDGs the main co-product from bio-ethanol production. By developing higher valued products using this material, the economics of the bio-ethanol industry will improve. Zein has been modified using various reactive chemicals to provide improved articles; however, these chemicals will often require significant investment to be handled safely. We have resolved that by using a reactive polymer, polyethylene maleic anhydride, zein can be modified in solution and provide articles that are stronger and less sensitive to liquids that usually dissolve zein. This information will be beneficial to manufacturers involved in the production of ethanol from corn as well as those companies interested in producing biobased (zein) articles that can compete with articles made using petroleum based ingredients.

Technical Abstract: Developing corn protein (zein) articles with improved physical properties and solvent resistance will have a beneficial impact on companies that use corn. The effect of using the crosslinking reagent polyethylenemaleic anhydride (PEMA) on the physical properties and solubility of zein films was studied. Reactions were carried out in dimethylformamide solution where the concentration of PEMA was between 0 and 6%. After reaction at room temperature poured films were prepared and the physical and solubility properties were determined. Incorporating more than 2% PEMA provided films with increased tensile strength and elongation. Using 6% PEMA provided films with 30% higher tensile strength and 100% higher elongation. The films had improved solvent resistance relative to control. While the control was completely dissolved by acetic acid, the films having between 1 and 6% PEMA only dissolved between 88 and 21% respectively. If the films were heated in an oven, the film’s solubility is decreased.