Journal article Open Access

Study on the influence of advanced treatment processes on the surface properties of polylactic acid for a bio-based circular economy for plastics

Georgia Sourkouni; Charalampia Kalogirou; Philipp Moritz; Anna Gödde; Pavlos K. Pandis; Oliver Höfft; Stamatina Vouyiouka; Antonis A. Zorpas; Christos Argirusis

New biotechnological processes using microorganisms and/or enzymes to convert carbonaceous resources, either biomass or depolymerized plastics into a broad range of different bioproducts are recognized for their high potential for reduced energy consumption and reduced GHG emissions. However, the hydrophobicity, high molecular weight, chemical and structural composition of most of them hinders their biodegradation. A solution to reduce the impact of non-biodegradable polymers spread in the environment would be to make them biodegradable. Different approaches are evaluated for enhancing their biodegradation. The aim of this work is to develop and optimize the ultrasonication (US) and UV photodegradation and their combination as well as dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) plasma as pre‐treatment technologies, which change surface properties and enhance the biodegradation of plastic by surface oxidation and thus helping bacteria to dock on them. Polylactic acid (PLA) has been chosen as a model polymer to investigate its surface degradation by US, UV, and DBD plasma using surface characterization methods like X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) and Confocal Laser Microscopy (CLSM), Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) as well as FT-IR and drop contour analysis. Both US and UV affect the surface properties substantially by eliminating the oxygen content of the polymer but in a different way, while plasma oxidizes the surface.

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