Transparent bioplastic films by ionic liquid welding: Enhanced biodegradability in marine environments

We introduce a green and facile method to compatibilize hydrophobic polylactide (PLA) with hydrophilic cellulose nanofibers (CNF) by using ionic liquid ([DBNH][OAc]) welding with a cosolvent system (gamma-valerolactone). Such welding affords strong (230 MPa tensile strength), flexible (13% elongation at break), transparent (>90%) and defect-free CNF/PLA films. The films are biodegradable in marine environments (70% degradation in 7 weeks), facilitating the otherwise slow PLA decomposition. Physical, chemical and structural features of the films before and after welding are compared and factored in the trends observed for degradation in seawater. The results point to the possibility of PLA-based films forming a co-continuous system with nanocellulose to achieve an improved performance. The role of film morphology, hydrophobicity, and crystallinity is discussed to add to the prospects for packaging materials that simultaneously display accelerated degradability in marine environments.