The current and forecasted global consumption of plastic packaging and products through the 21st century combined with the already reported and growing negative impact of plastics on the environment due to plastics being synthesized from nonrenewable resources that do not biodegrade is of serious concern. However, recent advances in starch technology including the development of thermoplastic starch (TPS) materials —polymers that are both renewable and biodegradable—have brought hope to reducing this impact. The mechanical properties of thermoplastic starch have often been improved by blending with synthetic polymers. One issue that arises with blending is volatilization of the melt from moisture in the TPS materials. Ecostarch™ a proprietary, pelletized thermoplastic starch resin formulated from potato starch, was processed and tested to observe injection molding processability at various moisture levels, in pure TPS as well as various blend ratios with high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP). This study evaluated and analyzed the effects of the TPS pellet moisture content on void formation in the plastic pre-injection melt and subsequent molded part mechanical properties. Statistical analysis of the test results showed that moisture had a significant effect on void formation in the plastic melt. In TPS/HDPE blends, voids percent (as measured by cross section area) increased by 300-350% from 0.6% to 1.4% moisture levels. In unblended TPS, void percent increased by 150% from 0.4% to 1.4% moisture levels. In the unblended TPS parts, impact strength (energy in ft-lb) was decreased by 1% from 0.6% to 1.4% moisture level. In the TPS/HDPE and TPS/PP blends, there was no significant effect on impact strength due to the moisture percent levels of the TPS. Modulus decreased by 25% from 0.4% to 1.4% moisture level in unblended TPS parts. From 0.6% to 1.4% change in TPS moisture content, the modulus of the TPS/HDPE blend decreased by 9% at a 30% TPS/70% HDPE blend and decreased by 14% at a 70% TPS/30% HDPE blend. Though the moisture of TPS did not have a significant impact on the tensile strength of TPS/HDPE blends, the tensile strength of TPS/PP blend samples were significantly affected: a change from 0.6% to 1.4% moisture increased tensile strength 34% at a 70% TPS/30% PP blend and increased tensile strength by 22% at a 30% TPS/70% PP blend. Thus the results of this study highlight the relationships between moisture, voids, and mechanical performance of TPS and TPS/Polymer blends.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Technology



Date Submitted


Document Type





Jordan Mark Ellingson, thermoplastic starch, TPS, Ecostarch, injection mold, voids, BiologiQ, tensile test, impact test, glycerol, moisture content, polyolefin



Technology Emphasis

Manufacturing Systems (MS)