New Tricarboxylate Plasticizers for Use in Polylactic Acid: Synthesis, Thermal Behavior, Mechanical Properties and Durability

A. De Bruyne, K.C. Gómez, G. O'Rourke, M. Denayer, J. Vekeman, F. De Proft, W. Stuyck, J. Leinders, P. Van Puyvelde, D. De Vos
Journal of Polymers and the Environment


We report the use of novel biobased plasticizers prepared starting from citric acid (CA) in polylactic acid (PLA). Citric acid based plasticizers are well-known softeners for PLA, with citrate esters as the most commonly used class. However, citrate esters are known to leach out of the plastic material over time. This problem is currently addressed by acetylating the tertiary hydroxyl group of citric acid via complex and environmentally polluting processes. An alternative strategy consists in the reductive removal of the tertiary hydroxyl group, resulting in propane-1,2,3-tricarboxylic acid. Derivatizing this compound leads to novel plasticizers which have not been tested in PLA yet. Here, different esters of propane-1,2,3-tricarboxylic acid were synthesized and blended in PLA. Their influence on the thermal (Tg and Tm) and the mechanical properties (Young’s modulus, stress and strain) of PLA along with their migration out of the material were compared to those of commercially available citric acid based plasticizers. Our results show that similar or better results were obtained with these new PLA plasticizers.