Nanostructured Cellulose Biocomposites : Effects from dispersion, network and interface

Abstract: The major load bearing component in native wood, cellulose nanofibrils, are potential candidates for use as reinforcement in polymer matrices. This study is based on nanocellulose composites and attempts to prepare and characterize biocomposites with high nanocellulose content and investigate the influence of nanostructure on macroscopic properties.In an initial study, effects from cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) dispersion on optical and mechanical properties of CNC composites are studied in a model system using polyvinylacetate (PVAc) as the polymer. CNC surface modification is used as an aid to improve dispersion, and nanocomposites with up to 20 wt% of modified and unmodified CNC are characterized. Strong influence of CNC as reinforcement and on polymer matrix characteristics were observed with well-dispersed CNCs, resulting in nanocomposites with significantly improved mechanical properties.In the subsequent parts, an impregnation-based processing strategy is used to prepare cellulose nanofibril (CNF) based thermoset (epoxy and unsaturated polyester) composites with high CNF content (15 - 50 vol%). Influence of CNF surface hydroxyls on epoxy curing is discussed. A mono-epoxy compound is used to confirm covalent epoxy/CNF reaction and the implications of this modification on mechanical properties of wet CNF network are illustrated. Mechanical properties of thermoset composites are characterized at different relative humidities to evaluate their hygromechanical stability. The role of the CNF-thermoset interface is investigated by comparing composites with epoxy and unsaturated polyester matrices. Unique effects due to the nanostructure of composites are discussed with respect to CNF dispersion, CNF network characteristics and CNF/matrix interface. Additionally, pulp fiber composites, where the fiber wall itself is impregnated with resin, are designed and differences between nanocellulose (nanoscale network) and pulp fibers (microscale diameter) as reinforcements are analyzed.

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