Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Published in Polymer International (2011), doi: 10.1002/pi.3014
Copyright © 2011 Society of Chemical Industry; published by John WIley & Sons. Used by permission.


Biocomposites developed from wheat gluten using water without any chemicals as plasticizer and jute fibers as reinforcement have much better flexural and tensile properties than similar polypropylene composites reinforced with jute fibers. Wheat gluten is an inexpensive and abundant co-product derived from renewable resources and is biodegradable but non-thermoplastic. Previous attempts at developing biocomposites from wheat gluten have used plasticizers such as glycerol or chemical modifications to make gluten thermoplastic. However, plasticizers have a considerably negative effect on the mechanical properties of the composites and chemical modifications make wheat gluten less biodegradable, expensive and/or environmentally unfriendly. In the research reported, we developed composites from wheat gluten using water as a plasticizer without any chemicals. Water plasticizes wheat gluten but evaporates during compression molding and therefore does not affect the mechanical properties of the composites. The effect of composite fabrication conditions on the flexural, tensile and acoustic properties was studied in comparison to polypropylene composites reinforced with jute fibers. Wheat gluten composites had flexural strength (20 MPa), tensile strength (69 MPa) and tensile modulus (7.7 GPa) values approximately twice those of polypropylene composites. Water is an effective plasticizer for wheat gluten and could be used to develop various types of inexpensive and biodegradable wheat gluten-based thermoplastics.