Sandwich-Architectured Poly(lactic acid)-Graphene Composite Food Packaging Films

Kunli Goh, Jenneke K. Heising, Yang Yuan, Huseyin E. Karahan, Li Wei, Shengli Zhai, Jia Xuan Koh, Nanda M. Htin, Feimo Zhang, Rong Wang, Anthony G. Fane, Matthijs Dekker, Fariba Dehghani, Yuan Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

138 Citations (Scopus)


Biodegradable food packaging promises a more sustainable future. Among the many different biopolymers used, poly(lactic acid) (PLA) possesses the good mechanical property and cost-effectiveness necessary of a biodegradable food packaging. However, PLA food packaging suffers from poor water vapor and oxygen barrier properties compared to many petroleum-derived ones. A key challenge is, therefore, to simultaneously enhance both the water vapor and oxygen barrier properties of the PLA food packaging. To address this issue, we design a sandwich-architectured PLA-graphene composite film, which utilizes an impermeable reduced graphene oxide (rGO) as the core barrier and commercial PLA films as the outer protective encapsulation. The synergy between the barrier and the protective encapsulation results in a significant 87.6% reduction in the water vapor permeability. At the same time, the oxygen permeability is reduced by two orders of magnitude when evaluated under both dry and humid conditions. The excellent barrier properties can be attributed to the compact lamellar microstructure and the hydrophobicity of the rGO core barrier. Mechanistic analysis shows that the large rGO lateral dimension and the small interlayer spacing between the rGO sheets have created an extensive and tortuous diffusion pathway, which is up to 1450-times the thickness of the rGO barrier. In addition, the sandwiched architecture has imbued the PLA-rGO composite film with good processability, which increases the manageability of the film and its competency to be tailored. Simulations using the PLA-rGO composite food packaging film for edible oil and potato chips also exhibit at least eight-fold extension in the shelf life of these oxygen and moisture sensitive food products. Overall, these qualities have demonstrated the high potential of a sandwich-architectured PLA-graphene composite film for food packaging applications. (Figure Presented).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9994-10004
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • food packaging
  • graphene oxide
  • oxygen permeability
  • poly(lactic acid)
  • shelf-life simulations
  • water vapor permeability


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