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High-performance Cellulose Nanocrystal Polyolefin Composites are an Attractive Filler for Polymer Composites

Photo of Uniform dispersion and neutral color of a polypropylene: CNC composites produced with solid state shear pulverization (a), and the opposite case for a standard melt mixer composite with excessive thermal degradation (b). Krishnan Iyer, Northwestern UniversityUniform dispersion and neutral color of a polypropylene: CNC composites produced with solid state shear pulverization (a), and the opposite case for a standard melt mixer composite with excessive thermal degradation (b). Krishnan Iyer, Northwestern UniversitySnapshot : Nanocellulose-polypropylene and nanocellulose-polyethylene composites exhibited the greatest improvement ever reported for such composites made with unmodified cellulose nanocrystals (CNC). Therefore, addition of biorenewable CNCs to the over 50 million tons these polymers used annually could open a vast new market for forest- based materials.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Schueneman, Gregory 
Research Location : Northwestern University
Research Station : Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 892

Summary

Forest Service and Northwestern University researchers produced polyolefin-cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) composites with superior dispersion and property enhancements. Together these attributes demonstrated that CNCs are an attractive and green filler for polymer composites. More than 50 million tons of plastic resins are used annually in the United States to manufacture products for a variety of end uses, including packaging, building materials, vehicles, furniture and furnishings, and electronics and electrical devices. Therefore, addition of biorenewable CNCs to these polymers could open a vast new market for forest based materials.

A low temperature mixing method termed “solid-state shear pulverization” was used for the first time in this study to produce composites of polyolefins and unmodified CNC. Microscopy and improved crystallization rate reveal excellent dispersion and suppression of CNC degradation within the polymer compared with composites made by traditional melt mixing. These composites exhibit substantially greater stiffness, the greatest improvement ever reported for such composites made with unmodified CNC. This surprising result illustrates that the state of the dispersion can be more important than the thermodynamic compatibility of the constituents.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • John Torkelson
  • Krishnan Iyer

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