Wheat gluten biopolymers generally become excessively rigid when processed without plasticisers, while the use of plasticisers, on the other hand, can deteriorate their mechanical properties. As such, this study investigated the effect of carbon black (CB) as a filler into glycerol-plasticised gluten to prepare gluten/CB biocomposites in order to eliminate the aforementioned drawback. Thus, biocomposites were manufactured using compression moulding followed by the determination of their mechanical, morphological, and chemical properties. The filler content of 4 wt% was found to be optimal for achieving increased tensile strength by 24%, and tensile modulus by 268% along with the toughness retention based on energy at break when compared with those of glycerol-plasticised gluten. When reaching the filler content up to 6 wt%, the tensile properties were found to be worsened, which can be ascribed to excessive agglomeration of carbon black at the high content levels within gluten matrices. Based on infrared spectroscopy, the results demonstrate an increased amount of β-sheets, suggesting the formation of more aggregated protein networks induced by increasing the filler contents. However, the addition of fillers did not improve fire and water resistance in such bionanocomposites owing to the high blend ratio of plasticiser to gluten.
Keywords: biocomposites; carbon black; fire resistance; gluten; plasticisers; tensile properties.