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The conversion of nanocellulose into solvent-free nanoscale liquid crystals by attaching long side-arms for multi-responsive optical materials

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Abstract

Nanocellulose, with its unique optical and chemical properties, has received increasing attention as feedstock to fabricate sustainable materials. However, achieving a nanocellulose-based solvent-free liquid crystal with good responsiveness still remains a challenge. Herein, for the first time, solvent-free supramolecular liquid crystals were fabricated by attaching long side-arms on the fiber-like nanocellulose derived from tunicate (TCNC) with an average width of 20 nm and 400–3000 nm in length. The side-arms were grafted via surface condensation with a charged organosilane, followed by further functionalization with a counter-ion polyoxyethylene ether. The nanoscale liquid crystals consisted of the stiff TCNC as the core and flexible side-arms as the soft shells, forming the core–shell structure with an average width of 34–36 nm. The resulting solvent-free liquid crystal exhibited transparent and viscous liquid-like fluidity, as well as a bright birefringence between the crossed polarizers at room temperature. In our findings, the stiff core provided crystal-like ordering, whereas the soft shells induced the high mobility of the TCNCs as a result of the increased fractional free volume, as shown by positron annihilation lifetime spectra. The unique flowability enables the possibility of multi-responsiveness to temperature, deformation, and alternating electric fields. In addition, the thermo-responsiveness can be regulated by tailoring the canopy. This work provides a novel strategy for the conversion of solid nanocellulose into a solvent-free nanoscale liquid crystal, which is promising for use as a responsive optical material.

Graphical abstract: The conversion of nanocellulose into solvent-free nanoscale liquid crystals by attaching long side-arms for multi-responsive optical materials

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Supplementary files

Article information


Submitted
28 Apr 2020
Accepted
28 May 2020
First published
01 Jun 2020

J. Mater. Chem. C, 2020, Advance Article
Article type
Paper

The conversion of nanocellulose into solvent-free nanoscale liquid crystals by attaching long side-arms for multi-responsive optical materials

Q. Cheng, P. Chen, D. Ye, J. Wang, G. Song, J. Liu, Z. Chen, L. Chen, Q. Zhou, C. Chang and L. Zhang, J. Mater. Chem. C, 2020, Advance Article , DOI: 10.1039/D0TC02059A

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