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Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726-2398
Phone: (608) 231-9200
Fax: (608) 231-9592


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Modifying Cellulose Nanomaterials for Wet Compounding into Polylactic Acid

Image of composites made with modified cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) (left) and unmodified CNFs (right). USDA Forest Service
Image of composites made with modified cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) (left) and unmodified CNFs (right). USDA Forest Service
Snapshot: Cellulose nanomaterials (CNMs) have been demonstrated to significantly improve various properties, including mechanical and barrier performance, of polymer composites, but one of the major impediments for producing these cellulose nanocomposites is the profound challenge of drying the nanomaterials without losing the nanoscale structure of the cellulose. In this work, researchers are developing aqueous-based modification and processing strategies to improve the compatibility and processing of CNMs into biobased polymer composites.

The incorporation of CNMs into bio-based polymeric systems has been investigated as a method of improving the properties of the bio-based polymers while maintaining bio-based nature of the resulting composite. We are developing a novel approach of directly mixing aqueous cellulose nanomaterial suspensions with polymers using a process we refer to as wet compounding, effectively combining the drying and compounding stages. To do so, the surface of the CNMs must be modified to make them compatible with the polymer matrix. In this work, a water-based catalyzed esterification of cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) was carried out to graft lactic acid on to the surface of CNF to improve its compatibility with polylactic acid (PLA). We see a clear improvement in the dispersion of these nanomaterials in PLA and continue to evaluate their properties with the ultimate goal of producing packaging materials with good barrier properties.
Princpal Investigator(s):
 Sabo, Ronald C.
 Stark, Nicole M.

Research Location:
  • USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, WI

External Partners:
  • Michigan State University

Fiscal Year: 2018
Highlight ID: 1306
Related Research Emphasis Areas: