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High performance all-biobased nanocomposite materials
Cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) have attracted intense attention due to their remarkable mechanical properties. As a result, CNFs are regarded as prime candidates to produce advanced biofiber-reinforced composites. However, 3 bottlenecks to produce high performance CNF-based composite materials still remain: (i) induce alignment of CNFs within the polymer matrix, (ii) avoid hornification of CNFs and (iii) find suitable matrices that would work synergistically with the CNFs. Recently, novel methods using environmentally friendly routes to prepare high-performance fibers have been developed. CNF-based fibers with tensile modulus and strength of up to 34 GPa and 300 MPa were prepared by Torres et al. (Biomacromolecules 2014, 15, 2709). It can be anticipated that the aforementioned challenges can be resolved by producing high performance CNF-based composite materials. Therefore, this project aims to produce CNF-based nanocomposites, films and fibers, with interesting tensile mechanical properties. Computer-controlled stretchings and ionic crosslinking will be utilized to maximize mechanical properties. Moreover, mechanical properties as a function of 1) the type of the natural matrix, 2) the concentration of CNFs, 3) the stretching ratio and 4) the concentration of the ionic crosslinking agent will be studied. Furthermore, a simple continuous extrusion system for preparation of CNF-based composite fibers will be designed. The results of this work could be useful for future technologies oriented to manufacture CNF-based nanocomposites on a large scale.