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2019 mar 22






Tahani Kaldeus

Defence of doctoral thesis: Tahani Kaldeus

Tahani Kaldeus, KTH | WWSC

Surface modification approaches of cellulose nanofibrils and their effect on dispersibility

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Supervisor: Professor Eva Malmström, KTH
Opponent: Dr. Tekla Tammelin, VTT Technical Research Center of Finland


In the strive to find and develop sustainable bio-based materials an increased interest for nanocellulosic materials as attractive alternatives has arisen during the past decades. This can be attributed to their abundant renewability, remarkable inherent mechanical properties and their capability to be chemically modified. Cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) are commonly obtained from wood pulp fibres and prepared through mechanical, chemical and/or enzymatic treatments. However, due to their hydrophilic nature and tendency to self-aggregate, their surface chemistry need to be altered to fully utilise their inherent properties and enable their usage in conventional large-scale industrial processes.

This thesis work focuses on elucidating the fundamental aspects of the colloidal stability of highly concentrated CNF dispersions and the redispersibility of dried CNFs. Small amounts of amine-terminated poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) were used to sterically stabilise the CNFs at higher fibril concentrations and delay the dispersion-arrested state transition (Paper I). The redispersibility of dried CNFs was studied for differently charged CNFs as a function of redispersing agents such as carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC), PEG and lignin (Paper II).

This thesis presents green, facile modification approaches as well as strategies for improved dispersibility and compatibility with polymer matrices. The commercially established carboxymethylation process was expanded with a subsequent functionality step, yielding a mild, versatile one-pot protocol for the preparation of bi-functional CNFs (Paper III). Further, reactive amphiphilic macromolecules with targeted side-chain functionalities were used to compatibilise the CNF surface by water-based approaches. In the first study, a macroinitiator was used for the development of a versatile, yet facile, protocol for the controlled polymerisation of both hydrophilic and hydrophobic monomers in water from the CNF surface (Paper IV). In the second study, a reactive macro-compatibiliser was used to molecularly engineer the interface between CNFs and a polymer matrix by reactive-melt processing, yielding nanocomposites with improved stiffness while maintaining the deformability (Paper V).