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Production, characterization, and mechanical properties of starch modified by Ophiostoma spp
Microbial modification of starch with Ophiostoma spp. was investigated, with the purpose of developing a novel packaging material for the food or pharmaceutical industries. Various starch sources, such as tapioca, potato, corn, rice and amylopectin were tested as raw materials. The initial screening demonstrated that tapioca and potato starch had better performance for biopolymer production. The yield was about 85%. Preliminary characterization of the modified biopolymer was also conducted. Following microbial conversion, the percentage of molecules with molecular weight (abbreviated Mw) more than 10M (abbreviations of million) Daltons increased from 25% to 89% after 3 days, confirming that the modification increased the weight of the starch polymer. Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) revealed changes in the chemical structure of the starch after the modification. Both pure starches and the modified biopolymers were cast into films and tested for mechanical properties. The tensile tests showed that after treatment with the fungus, the peak stress and modulus of the films increased about 10 and 40 times, respectively. Also, the water barrier property was improved. Therefore, microbial modification positively impacted proper-ties relevant to the proposed application. Although the role of the fungus in the modification and the function-property relationship of the biopolymer are not yet completely clear, the results of this study show promise for development of a novel biopolymer that competes with existing packaging materials.