Ionic liquids assisted processing of renewable resources for the fabrication of biodegradable composite materials
In recent years, the utilization of renewable resources, particularly lignocellulosic biomass based raw materials, to replace synthetic materials/polymers for the manufacture of green materials has gained increased worldwide interest due to growing global environmental awareness, concepts of sustainability and the absence of conflict between food and chemical/materials production. However, structural heterogeneity and the presence of networks of inter- and intra-molecular interactions in biopolymer matrices remain unsolved challenges to clean pretreatment for biocomposite processing. A number of techniques including physical, physico-chemical and chemical methods have been investigated for the pretreatment of renewable resources. Most of these methods require high temperatures and pressures, as well as highly concentrated chemicals for the pretreatment process. Fortunately, ionic liquids (ILs) – potentially attractive “green” recyclable alternatives to environmentally harmful organic solvents – have been increasingly exploited as solvents and/or (co)solvents and/or reagents for biopolymer processing. Compared to conventional approaches, ILs in processing biodegradable composites exhibit many advantages such as being noncorrosive and nonvolatile, having excellent dissolution power under relatively mild conditions and high thermal stability. Presently, a wide range of different approaches have been explored to further improve the performance of ILs processing of biobased polymers for composites manufacturing. The main goal of this review is to present recent technological developments in which the advantages of ILs as processing solvents for biopolymers for the production of a plethora of green composites have been gradually realized. It is hoped that the present article will inspire new ideas and new approaches in ILs-assisted processing of renewable resources for green composite production.