The growing environmental awareness, increasing societal concern and new environmental rules and regulations have triggered a paradigm shift in designing and engineering of eco-friendly green materials for flooring applications. Polylactic acid (PLA) polymers or polylactides are useful biodegradable polymers because of their origin from renewable resources like corn. The objective of this invention is to replace existing flooring materials based on halogenated polymers, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), with novel, eco-friendly polylactide-based materials for 21st century floorings. Polylactides possess good mechanical properties but their “brittleness” is a major hindrance for intended flooring applications. The right choice of plasticizer and compatibilizer are the critical success of this invention.
The existing PVC-based flooring materials contain phthalate plasticizers, which are a potential serious environmental threat. In designing new eco-friendly polylactide-based flooring, the plasticizer used under this invention is also environmentally friendly. Various highly toughened polylactide-based materials have been prepared from an extruded product derived from blends of PLA, plasticizers and compatibilizer. The impact strength of polylactide is enhanced by more than 20 times (more than 2000 percent) and percent elongation increases by more than 100 times as a result of this invention. The invented polylactide formulations after compounding with fillers like calcium carbonate and cellulosic materials like wood flour and certain additives are poised to be replacements for the existing halogenated flooring materials.
This invention produces a new class of flooring material based on environmentally friendly polylactic acid (PLA), a renewable resource-based bio-plastic to replace the currently used PVC. As part of this invention, we have developed an eco-friendly citrate plasticizer (blend of citrate and derivitized vegetable oil) instead of the currently used toxic phthalate plasticizer. We have used reactive extrusion processing to produce the new materials in an efficient, economical manner.
- The main advantage of this technology is the material is readily biodegradable.
- Flooring with this technology has improved impact strength.
The primary use of this technology is as a method for preparing a polymer material used for decorative surface covering, such as floor covering. It can also be used for protective coverings and composites, and other applications such as automotive, truck, and recreational vehicle components; reusable material-handling containers; wall coverings; shelving; agricultural and industrial bins and conveyors; trash and recycling receptacles; and home, office and industrial furniture and fixtures, as well as other articles of manufacture that comprise polymers.
Source: MSU, press release, 2012-12-29.