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Mechanical and Viscoelastic Properties of Cellulose Nanocrystals Reinforced Poly(ethylene glycol) Nanocomposite Hydrogels

Yang, Jun, Han, Chun-Rui, Duan, Jiu-Fang, Xu, Feng, Sun, Run-Cang
ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2013 v.5 no.8 pp. 3199-3207
cellulose, chemical bonding, crosslinking, energy, ethylene glycol, hydrogels, mechanical properties, mechanical stress, modulus of elasticity, nanocomposites, nanocrystals, polyethylene glycol, viscoelasticity
The preparation and mechanical properties of elastomeric nanocomposite hydrogels consisting of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) are reported. The aqueous nanocomposite CNC/PEG precursor solutions covalently cross-linked through a one-stage photocross-linking process. The mechanical properties of nanocomposite hydrogels, including Young’s modulus (E), fracture stress (σ), and fracture strain (ε), were measured as a function of CNC volume fraction (ϕCNC, 0.2–1.8%, v/v) within polymeric matrix. It was found that the homogeneously dispersed nanocomposite hydrogels can be prepared with ϕCNC being less than 1.5%, whereas the heterogeneous nanocomposite hydrogels were obtained with ϕCNC being higher than 1.5%. The nanocomposite hydrogels exhibited higher strengths and flexibilities when compared with neat PEG hydrogels, where the modulus, fracture stress, and fracture strain enhanced by a factor of 3.48, 5, and 3.28, respectively, over the matrix material alone at 1.2% v/v CNC loading. Oscillatory shear data indicated the CNC–PEG nanocomposite hydrogels were more viscous than the neat PEG hydrogels and were efficient at energy dissipation due to the reversible interactions between CNC and PEG polymer chains. It was proposed that the strong gel viscoelastic behavior and the mechanical reinforcement were related to “filler network”, where the temporary interactions between CNC and PEG interfered with the covalent cross-links of PEG.