Poly(Lactic Acid)-Poly(Butylene Succinate)-Sugar Beet Pulp Composites. Part I: Mechanics of Composites with Fine and Coarse Sugar Beet Pulp Particles
Sugar beet pulp (SBP) is a residue available in large quantities from the sugar industry, and can serve as a cost-effective bio-based and biodegradable filler for fully bio-based compounds based on bio-based polyesters. The heterogeneous cell structure of sugar beet suggests that the processing of SBP can affect the properties of the composite. An ""Ultra-Rotor"" type air turbulence mill was used to produce SBP particles of different sizes. These particles were processed in a twin-screw extruder with poly(lactic acid) (PLA) and poly(butylene succinate) (PBS) and fillers to granules for possible marketable formulations. Different screw designs, compatibilizers and the use of glycerol as a thermoplasticization agent for SBP were also tested. The spherical, cubic, or ellipsoidal-like shaped particles of SBP are not suitable for usage as a fiber-like reinforcement. In addition, the fineness of ground SBP affects the mechanical properties because (i) a high proportion of polar surfaces leads to poor compatibility, and (ii) due to the inner structure of the particulate matter, the strength of the composite is limited to the cohesive strength of compressed sugar-cell compartments of the SBP. The compatibilization of the polymer-matrix-particle interface can be achieved by using compatibilizers of different types. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) fracture patterns show that the compatibilization can lead to both well-bonded particles and cohesive fracture patterns in the matrix. Nevertheless, the mechanical properties are limited by the impact and elongation behavior. Therefore, the applications of SBP-based composites must be well considered.