Synthesis of bio-based plasticizers from sugar bagasse for selected biopolymers

Suleshi Niwarthana Abeysingha 

Principal Advisor: Prof Kathryn Fairfull-Smith

Associate Advisor: Dr. Lalehvash Moghaddam

Associate Advisor: Prof. Mike O’Shea

Queensland University of Technology

Plasticizers are low-molecular-weight chemicals added to polymers to improve flexibility, processability, workability, and ductility while lowering the glass transition temperature. When a plasticizer is added to the polymer matrix, new mechanical properties can be introduced. These properties emerge from the interaction between the molecules of the plasticizer and the polymer, and plasticized polymers have a wider range of uses, such as automobiles, packaging, consumer products, pharmaceuticals, and building and construction. Phthalate-based plasticizers have been extensively used in industrial applications. However, the migration of these materials, lowering the plasticizing impact on the polymer material and contaminating the surrounding environment, causes undesirable property changes in the polymer and causes health and environmental problems. Hence, it is required to develop new, nontoxic, environmentally friendly, and non-migratory advanced materials as plasticizers for the continued development of the plasticizer industry. As a result, petroleum-based plasticizers are gradually moving towards natural-based plasticizers. However, over 90% of these plasticizers are produced for PVC, as it is a versatile and widely used plastic material. Other polymers, particularly biopolymers, have received less attention and have limited their application due to their poorer compatibility with traditional plasticizers and a lower number of novel plasticizers being developed for them. Thus, mainly, this research is focused on the synthesis of efficient and environmentally friendly bio-based plasticizers from agricultural waste, with a particular emphasis on sugarcane bagasse, a low-value byproduct of the sugar industry.