Project Number: 5325-41000-056-00
Start Date: Oct 01, 2010
End Date: Sep 30, 2015
Novel commercially viable composite materials will be developed from agricultural fibers and binders. Fiber composites with superior strength and flexibility will be made by uniformly distributing agricultural fibers in matrices using and array of dispersants. Matrix materials will include biopolymers and inorganic binders. Fiber reinforced composites will also be made using micro and nanofibers made from biopolymers. Composite materials with liquid activated clumping properties will be made using agricultural binders with high molecular weight and strong hydrophilic properties. Composite materials that function as control-release devices will be developed both for controlling important agricultural pests and for providing plant nutrition and protection. The devices will utilize biodegradable, natural polymers and beneficial soil microbes. In addition to composite materials, micro and nanofibers and/or nanoparticles will be made from biopolymers using a solution blow spinning technology recently developed. Biopolymer solutions will be used to make an array of micro and nanofibers with active agents that provide functionality for applications for medical products and personal hygiene items. Nanoparticles from starch and/or cellulose will be produced by chemical and mechanical means. The materials will be used to make nanocomposites with improved strength and modulus. Low molecular weight polyesters will be made based on di and triols/diacids that can plasticize polylactic acid (PLA) or polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA). PLA and PHA polymers containing the plasticizers will be tested for strength and stability by recording mechanical properties. Green pathways for making styrene and terephthalic acid will be explored along with other WRRC cooperators. The Bioproducts Group’s main focus in this collaborative effort will be to assist in characterizing the mechanical and physical properties of the biopolymers and partnering with industry to facilitate scale-up. Non-fuel commodity bioproducts from crop residues, fish waste and wheat gluten will be made. Cellulose fiber will be extracted from crop residues and processed into bioproducts including agricultural mulches and tessellated fiber board. Bioproducts from fish waste will include gelatin polymers for biomedical applications such as tissue scaffolding. Nanofibers from fish gelatin or blends of fish gelatin and other polymers will be made by electrospinning. Processing parameters will be optimized and fiber properties will be characterized using microscopy and analytical methods. Antibiotics will be incorporated into the fibers and films. The antimicrobial effectiveness of fibers will be compared to films as to their effectiveness against different bacteria using an overlay inhibition technique. Work on wheat gluten bioproducts will also be performed with the goal of developing natural protein polymers from vital wheat gluten that can be chemically modified to impart greater ability to absorb water.