Morphological investigation of polylactide/microfibrillated cellulose composites
Optical microscopy and transmission electron microscopy have been used to investigate the morphology of polylactide (PLA)/microfibrillated cellulose (MFC) composites prepared by: compression molding of wet-comingled MFC and PLA latex or powder, twin-screw extrusion of the wet-comingled compounds, and solvent mixing of PLA with MFC or acetylated MFC. Compression molding of wet-comingled MFC and PLA latex or powder compounds resulted in a cellular MFC network, whereas solvent-cast films showed a more uniform dispersion of MFC fibers. Somewhat lower aggregate diameters observed in the acetylated MFC were assumed to be due to decreased MFC hydrophilicity and improved chemical affinity with the PLA matrix. The MFC networks in the commingled compounds were severely disrupted after twin-screw extrusion. This confirmed the limited deformability of the networks inferred from the extensive syneresis during the initial compression molding step, and accounted for substantial losses in stiffness reinforcement by the MFC after extrusion.