Principal investigator: Raymond Pearson

University: Lehigh University

Industry partners: TRuCapSul LLC

The proposed project combines the synthetic/production skills from TRuCapSul with the characterization expertise at Lehigh University to produce a product that will improve bioplastics. The product will be an encapsulated, multifunctional additive that promotes toughness and biodegradation. Poly(lactic acid) (PLA) will be the first bioplastic to be modified since it is the most common bioplastic. The long-term plan is to develop a series of additives to be used for a variety of bioplastics. The proof of concept was established as part of Dr. Caroline Multari’s PhD dissertation (Lehigh University, 2018). Dr. Multari is now employed by TRuCapSul.

The technical approach focuses on optimizing the composition, microstructure, and amount of the encapsulated additive in PLA. The microstructured particles will be characterized using electron microscopy, blends will be mixed using melt extrusion, mechanical behavior will be characterized using materials testing equipment (Instrons) and the biodegradation behavior will be assessed using soil contact testing. The project plan reflects the optimization methodology.

We intend to use a graduate student to perform the characterization and melt blending. The student will also work closely with TRuCapSul on the particle production and characterization. The location of TRuCapSul to Lehigh University will promote close collaboration.