Acryloyl-modified cellulose nanocrystals: effects of substitution on crystallinity and copolymerization with acrylic monomers
AbstractCellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) are crystalline nano-rods that have high specific strength with hydroxyl surface chemistry. A wide range of chemical modifications have been performed on the surface of CNCs to increase their potential to be used in applications where compatibilization with other materials is required. Understanding the surface chemistry of CNCs and critically examining the functionalization technique are crucial to enable control over the extent of modification and the properties of CNCs. This work aims to optimize the surface modification of wood-derived CNCs with isocyanatoethyl methacrylate (IEM), a bifunctional molecule carrying both isocyanate and vinyl functional groups. We studied the effect of modification reaction time and temperature on the degree of substitution, crystallinity, and morphology of the CNCs. We found that the degree of modification is a strong and increasing function of reaction temperature over the range studied. However, the highest temperature (65 °C) and the longest time of reaction (6 h) resulted in shorter, thinner, and less crystalline CNCs. We obtained surface hydroxyl conversion of 60.1 ± 6% and percent crystallinity of 84% by keeping the reaction shorter (30 min) at 65 °C. Also, the copolymerization ability of modified CNCs was verified by polymerizing attached IEM groups with acrylic monomers via solution polymerization. The polymer-grafted CNCs (6% w/w) dispersed better in an acrylic polymer matrix compared to unmodified CNCs (umCNCs), resulting in approximately 100% improvement in the tensile strength and about 53% enhancement in the hardness of the acrylic, whereas
addition of 6% w/w umCNCs did not influence the strength and hardness.