Physical Properties and Biodegradability Evaluation of Vulcanized Epoxidized Natural Rubber/Thermoplastic Potato Starch Blends
The sustainable material&mdash;thermoplastic potato starch (TPS)&mdash;was blended with modified natural rubber&ndash;epoxidized natural rubber (ENR). The poor mechanical properties of the ENR/TPS blends limited the application. Sulfur vulcanization is a common and economical method to improve the mechanical properties in the rubber industry. To fully understand the relationship between vulcanization systems and ENR/TPS blends and the sustainability of the developed material, the effects of a vulcanization accelerator (N-cyclohexylbenzothiazole-2-sulphenamide (CBS), 2-mercaptobenzothiazole (MBT), N-tert-butylbenzothiazole-2-sulphenamide (TBBS)) and a system type (conventional vulcanization (CV), semi-efficient vulcanization (SEV) and efficient vulcanization (EV)) on curing characteristics, mechanical and thermal properties, water absorption and biodegradability were systematically evaluated. The results indicate that vulcanization significantly improves the mechanical properties of ENR/TPS blends. The performance optimization of the CBS-CV vulcanization system is the best for improving the mechanical properties and reducing the water absorption. The CBS-CV curing system makes ENR/TPS less biodegradable (12&ndash;56% of mass loss) than other accelerators and systems. TBBS-CV makes the material more biodegradable (18&ndash;66% of mass loss). The low rubber content enables the rapid biodegradation of the vulcanized blend. This has implications for research on sustainable materials. The material can be applied for eco-friendly packaging and agricultural films, etc. The investigation on performance by using common accelerators and systems provides ideas for industries and research.