Thermoplastic bio-nanocomposites: From measurement of fundamental properties to practical application

Ivanna Colijn*, Karin Schroën

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Although the discovery of plastic has revolutionized materials used in many industries and by consumers, their non-biodegradable nature has led to one of the greatest problems of our times: plastic waste in the environment. Bioplastics which are biobased and biodegradable, have been suggested as alternatives for their fossil based counterparts, but their properties often do not meet the requirements that standard plastics would, and are in clear need of improvement. One way to do so is by the addition of nanoparticles which, when homogeneously dispersed, have been reported to result in great improvements. However, in practice, homogenous distribution of nanoparticles is not that trivial due to their tendency to aggregate, also after addition to the polymer matrix. Although theoretical frameworks to prevent this process are available, we feel that the options explored in practice are often rather trial and error in nature. For that reason, we review the theories available, aiming to facilitate the design of the nanocomposites for a sustainable future. We first discuss thermodynamic frameworks which revolve around nanoparticle aggregation. To minimize nanoparticle aggregation, the nanoparticle and polymer can be selected in such a way that they have similar polar and dispersive surface energies. The second part is dedicated to nanocomposite processing, where kinetic effects act on the nanocomposite material therewith influencing its final morphology, although it is good to point out that other factors such as reaggregation also affect the final nanocomposite morphology. The third section is dedicated to how nanoparticles affect the polymer matrix to which they are added. We describe how interactions at an atomic scale, result in the formation of an interphasial region which ultimately leads to changed bulk material properties. From these three sections, we conclude that three parameters are often overlooked when designing nanocomposites, namely the surface energies of the nanoparticles and polymers, the aggregation bond energy or strength, and the interphase region. Therefore, in the fourth section we provide an overview of techniques to identify these three parameters. We finish with a summery and outlook for the design of bio nanocomposites, where we bring all insights from the previous four sections together.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102419
JournalAdvances in Colloid and Interface Science
Early online date16 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Aggregation strength
  • Biodegradable plastics
  • Interphase region
  • Nanocomposites
  • Nanoparticles
  • Surface energy


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