Processing and Development of Wheat Gluten Plastics

Abstract:  Renewable packaging materials are of interest for a more sustainable environment. Wheat gluten is one of the most interesting candidates to replace petroleum-based oxygen-barrier polymers for packaging applications. The high amount of hydrogen bonds makes wheat gluten interesting as oxygen barrier films with sufficient elastomeric mechanical properties. Wheat gluten based materials are homogeneous, mechanically strong and relatively water insoluble compared with other biological materials. Several studies of wheat gluten films have been performed on solution cast films and a few studies have been executed on compression molding. Extrusion, without solvents, is the most common and fastest processing method for the production of packaging films. In order to develop wheat gluten films to commercially competitive material it is crucial to make the material extrudable.The temperature window for extrusion of glycerol-plasticized wheat gluten was increased by the use of salicylic acid, a known scorch retarder and radical scavenger. Small effects of shear-induced heating during extrusion at the higher temperatures suggested that the acid acted as a lubricant and viscosity reducer. The latter was suggested to originate primarily from the salicylic-acid-induced reduction in the degree of protein aggregation/crosslinking, as indicated by size-exclusion high-performance liquid chromatography and chemiluminescence. Electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy on extruded films indicated that the beneficial effect of salicylic acid was due to its radical scavenging effect. The complex shear modulus increased more slowly with increasing salicylic acid content above 110-120°C, indicating that the aggregation/crosslinking rate was slower with salicylic acid, i.e. that it did have a scorch-retarding effect, besides yielding a lower final degree/complexity of aggregation.Sodium hydroxide was used as an additive to be able to extrude gluten at alkaline conditions. The oxygen barrier, at dry conditions, was improved significantly with the addition of sodium hydroxide. Oxygen transmission rate measurements, tensile tests, protein solubility, glycerol migration, infrared spectroscopy and electrophoresis were used to assess the properties of the extrudate. It was observed that the extrudate with 3 wt.% sodium hydroxide had the most suitable combination of properties, low oxygen permeability, large strain at break and relatively small aging-induced changes in mechanical properties, the reason probably due to high protein aggregation and low plasticizer migration.As an alternative method to get alkaline conditions ammonium hydroxide was added. It resulted in a three times stronger film compared to the pure gluten glycerol material and had an oxygen barrier that can favorably be compared with these of oriented polyethylene terephtalat or Nylon 66.Several plasticizers were examined in a screening test where the extrusion properties were predicted in a plasticorder. The temperature and melt viscosity were recorded during the kneading. The most promising plasticizers were chosen to further studies with tensile tests. Glycerol was shown to be the most efficient plasticizer for thermoformed gluten films.In order to use wheat gluten as a packaging material, it is important to be able to seal it. Wheat gluten films, molded at 100–130°C, were sealed by impulse sealing at 120– 175°C. The lap-shear and peel strength of the sealed films were evaluated. The lapshear strength was greater than or similar to that of polyethylene film, although the peel strength was poorer.

  This dissertation MIGHT be available in PDF-format. Check this page to see if it is available for download.