Polymers (Basel). 2023 Jan 6;15(2):300. doi: 10.3390/polym15020300.
As a biodegradable thermoplastic, polylactic acid (PLA) shows great potential to replace petroleum-based plastics. Nevertheless, the flammability and brittleness of PLA seriously limits its use in emerging applications. This work is focused on simultaneously improving the flame-retardancy and toughness of PLA at a low additive load via a simple strategy. The PLA/MKF/NTPA biocomposites were prepared by incorporating alkali-treated, lightweight, renewable kapok fiber (MKF) and high-efficiency, phosphorus-nitrogenous flame retardant (NTPA) into the PLA matrix based on the extrusion-injection molding method. When the additive loads of MKF and NTPA were 0.5 and 3.0 wt%, respectively, the PLA/MKF/NTPA biocomposites (PLA3.0) achieved a rating of UL-94 V-0 with an LOI value of 28.3%, and its impact strength (4.43 kJ·m-2) was improved by 18.8% compared to that of pure PLA. Moreover, the cone calorimetry results confirmed a 9.7% reduction in the average effective heat of combustion (av-EHC) and a 0.5-fold increase in the flame retardancy index (FRI) compared to the neat PLA. NTPA not only exerted a gas-phase flame-retardant role, but also a condensed-phase barrier effect during the combustion process of the PLA/MKF/NTPA biocomposites. Moreover, MKF acted as an energy absorber to enhance the toughness of the PLA/MKF/NTPA biocomposites. This work provides a simple way to prepare PLA biocomposites with excellent flame-retardancy and toughness at a low additive load, which is of great importance for expanding the application range of PLA biocomposites.