Impact of melt rheology on zein foam properties
Journal article, 2010
Zein, the main protein fraction in maize, is left as a by-product from bio-ethanol production. The protein has been investigated as a material for a long time, but mainly in the form of films. In contrast, foamed zein is presented in this article. Zein foams may perhaps be used, e.g. as trays for biodegradable food packages or as scaffolds for tissue engineering. A batch method for manufacturing solid foams was successfully developed, the foams being manufactured by evaporation of solvent from zein resins. In order to be suitable for foam formation, a resin must possess gas-retaining properties, which can be predicted by extensional rheology. The presence of plasticizer in some of the resins decreased their extensional viscosity, and this in turn affected the foaming process. Although all the resins displayed strain-hardening behaviour, there was coalescence of pores in all the foams. Insufficient extensional viscosity resulted in the collapse of pore walls during foam expansion. Structure analysis showed, e.g. that most pores were elongated along the main axis of the mould in which the foams were manufactured. The plasticizer content in the resins had no significant effect on the mechanical properties of the foams.