In spite of usefulness of synthetic polymers in every aspects of life, the environmental hazards limit their use. Starch based biodegradable polymers is one of the solutions to it. Packaging has a major share in use of synthetic polymers. For packaging application, it is necessary to have good surface and barrier properties of the material. Plasma surface modification of materials is a promising solution to enhance surface properties. In the present paper, cornstarch/poly(ε-caprolactone) (CSPCL) films were treated in air-plasma for different durations of time. The effect of air-plasma treatment on surface properties and biodegradation was studied. The extent of etching was evaluated from weight change (%) study. Changes in surface chemical composition were analyzed using ATR-FTIR and XPS. The contact angle and surface free energy (SFE) study indicate that air-plasma treatment leads to hydrophilization of CSPCL films. The changes in surface topography of plasma processed films were analyzed using AFM and SEM. The roughness caused by etching and increase in surface free energy facilitates the improvement in adhesive properties like printability and peel strength. Changes in barrier properties were studied using water vapor and oxygen transmission rate. Effect of air-plasma treatment on biodegradation of treated and untreated samples was studied by simulating natural biodegradation conditions in a controlled environment using indoor soil burial method and with a single bacterial system comprising of a commonly occurring soil bacterium, Bacillus subtilis MTCC 121. While the soil system is indicative of biodegradation due to macro as well as micro elements, a single microbial system will identify the interaction between the microorganisms and modified surface thus showing the effect of air-plasma treatment on the degradation process. Biodegradation by indoor soil burial method was assessed by measuring loss in tensile properties and growth of soil micro flora on surface by optical light microscopy (OLM). Biodegradation by B. subtilis was assessed by measuring increase in its number along with the changes it brought about in the sample surface by optical light microscopy and SEM. It was observed that such surface modifications enhanced the biodegradation rate along with finding application in packaging field, thus providing a green solution for the increasing packaging utilization and addressing environmental concerns.
Polymer Degradation and Stability,120,262-272(2015)