Plasticization of poly(lactide) with blends of tributyl citrate and low molecular weight poly(d,l-lactide)-b-poly(ethylene glycol) copolymers

Yahia Lemmouchi, Marius Murariu, Ana Margarida dos Santos, Allan J. Amass, Etienne Schacht, Philippe Dubois*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Polylactide (PLA) is a potential candidate for the partial replacement of petrochemical polymers because it is biodegradable and produced from annually renewable resources. Characterized by its high tensile strength, unfortunately the brittleness and rigidity limit its applicability. For a great number of applications such as packaging, fibers, films, etc., it is of high interest to formulate new PLA grades with improved flexibility and better impact properties. In order to develop PLA-based biodegradable packaging, the physico-mechanical properties of commercially available PLA should be modified using biodegradable plasticizers. To this end, PLA was melt-mixed with blends of tributyl citrate and more thermally stable low molecular weight block copolymers based on poly(d,l-lactide) and poly(ethylene glycol) of different molecular weights and topologies. The copolymers have been synthesized using a potassium based catalyst which is expected to be non toxic and were characterized by utilization of TGA, GPC and NMR techniques. The effect of the addition of up to 25 wt% plasticizer on the thermo-mechanical properties of PLA was investigated and the results were correlated with particular attention to the relationship between properties and applications. To confirm the safety of the catalyst used for the preparation of the copolymers, in vitro cytotoxicity tests have been carried out using MTS assay and the results show their biocompatibility in the presence of the fibroblast cells. Compost biodegradation experiments carried out using neat and plasticized PLA have shown that the presence of plasticizers accelerates the degradation of the PLA matrix.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2839-2848
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Polymer Journal
Issue number10
Early online date14 Jul 2009
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


  • biodegradable polymers
  • compost degradation
  • packaging
  • plasticization
  • poly(lactide)
  • thermo-mechanical properties


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