Defence of doctoral thesis: Jonatan Henschen – Bio-based preparation of nanocellulose and functionalization using polyelectrolytes
Supervisor: Professor Monica Ek,, KTH
Opponent: Assoc. Prof. Emily Cranston, University British Columbia, Canada
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Nanocellulose is a material which can be extracted from wood, and in recent years it has received great attention for its interesting properties and wide range of possible applications. With the aim of further expanding the applications of nanocellulose, this work has studied a new way to produce nanocellulose as well as the possibility of using polyelectrolyte adsorption to alter the interaction with bacteria of materials made from nanocellulose.
Nanocellulose was produced by a novel concurrent esterification and hydrolysis of wood pulp in molten oxalic acid dihydrate. The resulting mixture was washed using ethanol, acetone or tetrahydrofuran before the cellulose oxalate was dried and fibrillated. The nanocellulose obtained with a high yield had a high surface charge (up to 1.4 mmol g-1) and contained particles with a morphology similar to both cellulose nanocrystals and cellulose nanofibrils. The material was used to prepare both Pickering emulsions and thin films with a strength of up to 197 MPa, a strain at break of up to 5 %, a modulus of up to 10.6 GPa and an oxygen permeability as low as 0.31 cm3 µm m-2 day-1 kPa-1.
Polyelectrolyte adsorption of polyvinylamine and polyacrylic acid was used to modify materials made from nanocellulose. Materials in the form of films and aerogels were used as substrates. By altering the surface charge of the material, the surface structure and the number of layers of polyvinylamine/polyacrylic acid adsorbed, it was possible to prepare materials with both high and low bacterial adhesion. By changing the material properties it is possible to tailor materials with either contact-active or non-adhesive antibacterial properties, both of which are sustainable alternatives to the currently used antibacterial materials.
Nanocellulose is a material which in the near future will probably be used in many applications. In order to improve the suitability of nanocellulose in certain applications it will be necessary to use production methods which differ from the existing methods, for example by using oxalation as a pre-treatment. By modifying the bacterial adhesion to materials prepared from nanocellulose, new medical and health applications emerge.