The effect of thiolated additives on the properties of wheat gluten based plastics, aqueous solutions and electrospun fibers

Date of Completion

January 2010


Chemistry, Polymer|Engineering, Chemical|Engineering, Materials Science




Wheat gluten (WG) is a promising substitute for petroleum-based plastics due to its unique ability to form a cohesive blend with viscoelastic properties once plasticized. Previous work blending WG with thiolated poly(vinyl alcohol) (TPVA) showed that both the strength and elongation of compression molded native WG bars can be improved via thiol/disulfide interchange reactions between WG and TPVA. In this study, the morphology of WG/TPVA blends was investigated by atomic force (AFM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM), as well as by modulated dynamic scanning calorimetry (MDSC). Consistent with our earlier results, AFM and TEM imaging clearly indicated that TPVA is much more compatible with WG compared with poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) although there are still two phases in the blend: one WG rich phase and another TPVA rich phase. ^ TPVA was also blended with WG in an aqueous solvent (1/1 (v/v) water/1-propanol mixture) to improve its solubility and spinnability. Control experiments were conducted with PVA and dithiothreitol (DTT) for comparison purposes. The concentration and the thiolation level of TPVA were also varied to explore the parameter space. The interactions of thiol groups from TPVA and soluble WG were found to be important during electrospinning. The fiber diameter became more uniform and the fiber quality increased very noticeably when TPVA was included. Furthermore, the time-dependent rheology behaviors of TPVA/WG and DTT/WG electrospinning solutions were investigated by using steady shear sweeps, oscillatory frequency sweeps, SE-HPLC and free -SH content determination. A two-step mechanism of interaction was proposed for DTT/WG and TPVA/WG solutions based on current results and other earlier studies. In comparison with WG and PVA/WG solutions, the reduction and reformation of disulfide linkages in both TPVA/WG and DTT/WG solutions were believed to play a key role in determining the rheological properties and molecular weight distribution of WG fractions in the solution. ^ Finally, the effect of thiol groups on the electrospinning behavior of pure TPVA aqueous solution was studied. It has found that the fiber quality was improved obviously within the first few days of solution preparation, while no fiber can be obtained when the viscosity became too high. ^