Transforming Cellulose Nanocrystals into Sustainable Products through Surface Engineering

Speaker: Emily D. Cranston, McMaster University

Description: By learning from nature and using bio-based nanoparticles we can engineer sustainable high-performance materials with improved functionality. Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) are entering the marketplace as new ingredients for formulated chemical products. As “green” and potentially food-grade additives, there is widespread interest in CNCs particularly as emulsifiers, rheological modifiers, and reinforcing agents. We believe that the surface chemistry of CNCs must be well understood and controlled in order to elucidate the interactions, stability and compatibility of CNCs with liquids, polymers and small molecules.

I will present our recent benchmarking study of industrially produced CNCs and show applications of CNCs as (1) interface stabilizers in wet and dry oil/water emulsions; (2) property modifiers in synthetic latexes with a focus on improving pressure sensitive adhesives; and (3) mechanical enhancers in foams/gels. Specifically, CNC aerogels offer a flexible networked structure to support other functional nanomaterials which we have demonstrated as energy storage and water purification devices. This new understanding can be used to extend the capabilities of CNCs in food/cosmetic products, encapsulation technologies, coatings/adhesives, and tissue engineering scaffolds.