Polymers (Basel). 2022 Aug 22;14(16):3434. doi: 10.3390/polym14163434.
Gallic acid (GA) and quercetin (QU) are two important bioactive molecules with increased biomedical interest. Cellulose acetate (CA) is a polymer derived from cellulose and is used in various applications. In this work, differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) were used to study the thermal behavior of electrospun CA membranes loaded with quercetin or gallic acid. It was found that gallic acid and quercetin depress the thermochemical transition (simultaneous softening and decomposition) of CA, in a mechanism similar to that of the glass transition depression of amorphous polymers by plasticizers. The extensive hydrogen bonding, besides the well-known effect of constraining polymer’s softening by keeping macromolecules close to each other, has a secondary effect on the thermochemical transition, i.e., it weakens chemical bonds and, inevitably, facilitates decomposition. This second effect of hydrogen bonding can provide an explanation for an unexpected observation of this study: CA membranes loaded with quercetin or gallic acid soften at lower temperatures; however, at the same time, they decompose to a higher extent than pure CA. Besides optimization of CA processing, the fundamental understanding of the thermochemical transition depression could lead to the design of more sustainable processes for biomass recycling and conversion.