USDA scientists mix starch with PVOH, create better-performing films

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In Illinois, US Department of Agriculture researchers have developed a starch-based coating that, when blended with polyvinyl alcohol, creates a film with improved biodegradability, strength, flexibility, and water resistance.

George Fanta and Gordon Selling, chemists at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service’s National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, say the product could be used to replace polyethylene bags and polystyrene packing materials. It could also be used in items like clothing and umbrellas.

Fanta says the starch/PVOH blends have properties not found separately in either material. Starch, for example, lacks flexibility, while PVOH has limited biodegradability. The blended coatings also resist water better than those prepared from pure PVOH, Selling adds. The research was published in the April issue of AgResearch.