Nanocellulose Technology

This program provides a new platform for research and technological innovations in nanocellulose- particles for the development of cellulose nanocomposites with improved performance and new functionality. Cellulose nanoparticles provide a unique "building block" on which a new biopolymer composites industry can be based. (What is cellulose?) Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) are 1D nanoparticles that are being extracted from trees and plants. Crystalline cellulose has a greater axial elastic modulus than Kevlar and its mechanical properties are within the range of other reinforcement materials. [Property Table] These particles have high aspect ratio, low density, and a reactive surface of -OH side groups that facilitates grafting chemical species. This surface functionalization allows tailoring of cellulose particle surface chemistry to facilitate self-assembly, regulated dispersion in a wide range of matrix polymers, and control of both the particle-particle and particle-matrix bond strength. Potential applications for cellulose nanocomposites are in consumer products (packaging), electronics (flexible circuits), energy (flexible solar panels), and defense (body armor). Ongoing research covers several theme areas:

Metrology

The goal of this program is the development of a series of quantitative imaging techniques and protocols to quantitatively measure isolated cellulose nanoparticles (CN): morphology, terminating surfaces, crystal structure, properties (electrical, thermal, mechanical, etc), surface chemistry, quantify uniformity of properties along a single particle and between many particles. In addition, quantitative imaging and measure CN-CN or CN-matrix interface properties. Most work has focused on measuring the transverse elastic properties of individual cellulose nanoparticles via atomic force microscopy.

Surface Functionalization

The goal of this program is the development of processing techniques and protocols for functionalizing cellulose nanoparticle surface with chemicals, polymers, and metal and ceramic nanoparticles.

Cellulose Nanocomposites

The goal of this program is the processing of cellulose nanoparticle neat films, composite films and fibers of highly oriented and high volume fraction CNC using processing techniques that can be scaled up to industrial scales.

Environmental Impact and Health Risks

The goal of this program is to assess the environmental impact and health risks of cellulose nanoparticles (with either unmodified and functionalized surfaces) and their composites.