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2019 May 22






Lilian Medina

Defence of doctoral thesis: Lilian Medina – High Clay Content Cellulose Nanocomposites for Mechanical Performance and Fire Retardancy


Supervisor: Lars Berglund, KTH

Opponent: Dr. Jeffrey W. Gilman, National Institute of Standards and Technology, USA


Treesearch is streaming the presentation on this page.


Materials based on wood can offer sustainable alternatives to fossil-based plastics and composites, and show interesting mechanical properties. However, the issue of their flammability is generally unresolved. In this thesis, eco-friendly, fire retardant clay-cellulose nanofibril materials are investigated. The work focuses particularly on structure-property relationships and physical properties of these materials. The thesis is structured in two parts. The first part is concerned with paper-like materials, designated as “films”. The second part discusses materials of high-porosity, so-called “foams”.

In the first part, films of clay and cellulose nanofibrils are prepared by filtration from water. The composition is systematically varied (from 0 to 100% clay) and effects on the nanostructure are investigated by synchrotron X-ray scattering, helium pycnometry and microscopy techniques. The mechanical properties of the films are determined by tensile testing, optical properties are measured by transmittance/haze tests, and strong effects of nanostructure are observed. A film with 50 wt% clay is demonstrated as a fire retardant coating on wood, by cone calorimetry testing. These films are also pre-impregnated with epoxy precursors and cured, to form ternary composites of clay, cellulose nanofibrils, and epoxy. These ternary nanocomposites show remarkably well-preserved mechanical and gas barrier properties in moist environment.

In the second part, foams of high porosity are prepared by freeze-drying a suspension based on poly(vinyl alcohol), cellulose nanofibrils, and clay. The cellular structure is investigated by scanning electron microscopy, and effects from composition and cross-linking are analyzed. The compressive properties of the foams are determined and related to their structure. Addition of poly(vinyl alcohol) influences the unique degradation and charring behavior of cellulose nanofibrils in the presence of clay so that fire retardancy is decreased.