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Individual Highlight

Improving biopolymers for packaging applications using surface-tailored cellulose nanocrystals

Photo of FPL-2017-101FPL-2017-101Snapshot : Demand is rapidly increasing for environmentally friendly packaging materials that are derived from renewable resources and are biodegradable, but many of these “green” polymers do not perform as well as traditional, fossil fuel-derived polymers. By adding tailored cellulose nanocrystals, which are essentially submicroscopic wood fibers, to polymers Forest Service researchers demonstrated dramatic improvements in properties of bio-based polymers.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Sabo, Ronald C.Stark, Nicole M.
Agarwal, Umesh P. 
Research Location : Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, WI
Research Station : Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1271


Cellulose nanomaterials have been shown to improve the mechanical and barrier properties of bio-based polymers, such as poly(lactic acid).. Successful strategies for improving the interaction between cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) and polymers include adding fatty acid methyl esters to the surface and producing lignin-containing CNCs directly from wood. Incorporating these modified CNCs into poly(lactic acid) resulted in composites with increased toughness and films with improved barriers to oxygen and water vapors. These composites were produced entirely from renewable materials, have the potential to improve the shelf-life of food products, and are biodegradable.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Michigan State University
  • University of Idaho