Well-dispersed cellulose nanocrystals in hydrophobic polymers by in situ polymerization for synthesizing highly reinforced bio-nanocomposites†
In nanocomposites, dispersing hydrophilic nanomaterials in a hydrophobic matrix using simple and environmentally friendly methods remains challenging. Herein, we report a method based on in situ polymerization to synthesize nanocomposites of well-dispersed cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and poly(vinyl acetate) (PVAc). We have also shown that by blending this PVAc/CNC nanocomposite with poly(lactic acid) (PLA), a good dispersion of the CNCs can be reached in PLA. The outstanding dispersion of CNCs in both PVAc and PLA/PVAc matrices was shown by different microscopy techniques and was further supported by the mechanical and rheological properties of the composites. The in situ PVAc/CNC nanocomposites exhibit enhanced mechanical properties compared to the materials produced by mechanical mixing, and a theoretical model based on the interphase effect and dispersion that reflects this behavior was developed. Comparison of the rheological and thermal behaviors of the mixed and in situ PVAc/CNC also confirmed the great improvement in the dispersion of nanocellulose in the latter. Furthermore, a synergistic effect was observed with only 0.1 wt% CNCs when the in situ PVAc/CNC was blended with PLA, as demonstrated by significant increases in elastic modulus, yield strength, elongation to break and glass transition temperature compared to the PLA/PVAc only material.
- This article is part of the themed collections: Recent Open Access Articles and Celebrating Excellence in Research: Women of Materials Science