MFC (microfibrillated cellulose) has recently become a major area of research, as it offers promising advantages as a reinforcement in composites materials. It has the potential for replacing synthetic fibers in applications where post-use biodegradability is beneficial. This material is extracted from cellulose, the most abundant natural polymer on earth.
In their project, “Influence of Drying Restraint on Physical and Mechanical Properties of Microfibrillated Cellulose Films,” Carlos Baez, John Considine, and Robert Rowlands show that by breaking down the structural hierarchy of plant material, it is possible to separate and obtain networks composed of nanosized fibers by mechanical agitation of the cellulosic bundles.
This project is part of a Masters Thesis jointly funded by the Graduate Engineering Research Scholars (GERS) fellowship program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Pathways program at the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison Wis.
The work presents the consequences produced by selected restraint drying methods on the properties of MFC films. This study showed that the drying restraint method significantly affects resulting properties because of a combination of influences, including fiber orientation, fiber straightening, and stress concentrations. This information can be used in the development of future biocomposite materials that include free-standing MFC films in their design.
The paper was published in the journal Cellulose February 2014.