Structure and properties of composite films formed by cellulose nanocrystals and charged latex nanoparticles†
We report the structural and optical properties of composite films formed from mixed suspensions of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and fluorescent latex nanoparticles (NPs). We explored the effect of NP concentration, size, surface charge, glass transition temperature and film processing conditions on film structure and properties. The chiral nematic order, typical of CNC films, was preserved in films with up to 50 wt% of negatively-charged latex NPs. Composite films were characterized by macroscopically close-to-uniform fluorescence, birefringence, and circular dichroism properties. In contrast, addition of positively charged latex NPs led to gelation of CNC-latex suspensions and disruption of the chiral nematic order in the composite films. Large latex NPs disrupted the chiral nematic order to a larger extend than small NPs. Furthermore, the glass transition of latex NPs had a dramatic effect on the structure of CNC-latex films. Latex particles in the rubbery state were easily incorporated in the ordered CNC matrix and improved the structural integrity of its chiral nematic phase.