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Cellulose nanocrystals from Miscanthus fibers: insights into rheological, physico-chemical properties and polymer reinforcing ability

El Achaby, Mounir, El Miri, Nassima, Hannache, Hassan, Gmouh, Said, Trabadelo, Vera, Aboulkas, Adil, Ben Youcef, Hicham
Cellulose 2018 v.25 no.11 pp. 6603-6619
Miscanthus, acid hydrolysis, cellulose, crystal structure, modulus of elasticity, nanocomposites, nanocrystals, physicochemical properties, polymers, starch, sulfates, sulfuric acid, temperature profiles, tensile strength, viscosity, zeta potential
Cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) were extracted from Miscanthus (MST) fibers using a sulfuric acid hydrolysis process. The results showed that the obtained CNC exhibit a needle-like shape with an average aspect ratio of 37. The surface charge density was measured at 1.99 sulfate groups per 100 anhydroglucose units while the zeta potential value was found to be -38 mV. The crystallinity of the extracted CNC was 76%, and the cellulose I type crystal structure was predominant. Due to its high importance for potential application of CNC in aqueous systems, the rheological behavior of CNC aqueous suspensions at various CNC concentrations was determined. The CNC suspensions showed gel-like behavior at very low CNC concentrations ranging from 0.1 wt% up to 0.6 wt%, as confirmed by the steady shear viscosity measurements and the oscillatory dynamic tests. The dynamic rheological parameters of CNC suspensions were slightly affected by the temperature profile. At high temperature up to 80 °C a stronger CNC network is formed by increasing the relative motion resistance of CNC macromolecules and the entanglement. In order to identify the reinforcing ability of the newly extracted CNC, starch-based nanocomposite films were produced with various CNC contents (1, 3, 5 and 8 wt%) and their tensile properties were investigated. It was found that the addition 8 wt% CNC within starch matrix increased the Young’s modulus by 150% and the tensile strength by 118%, resulting in mechanically strong and eco-friendly nanocomposite materials.