Nanocomposites of Hydrophobized Cellulose Nanocrystals and Polypropylene
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2016 Materials Research Society. Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) are high-strength sustainable nanomaterials, the incorporation of which to a host polymer matrix can potentially lead to nanocomposites with superior mechanical properties. However, the mismatch in surface energy of CNCs and common structural polymers is a challenge that needs to be overcome to prevent the aggregation of CNCs and ensure the robust integration of CNCs into a polymer matrix. Herein, we report an approach involving the functionalization of CNCs with maleated-anhydride polypropylene (MAPP) through diethylenetriamine (DETA) linkers to significantly enhance the compatibility between CNCs and polypropylene. Polypropylene/modified CNC nanocomposites displayed 74% and 76% increase in elastic modulus in comparison to neat polypropylene and polypropylene/untreated CNC nanocomposites, respectively. The tensile strength was also higher for nanocomposites with modified CNC than neat polypropylene, as well as nanocomposites with untreated CNCs. The tensile strength at 5.5% strain of polypropylene/modified CNC nanocomposites was 32% and 28% larger that of polypropylene and polypropylene/untreated CNC nanocomposites, respectively. Finally, such CNC-based nanocomposites have a lower density than many competitive systems resulting in opportunities to propagate this environmentally-responsible technology to nanocomposites used in additive manufacturing, automotive applications, construction materials and consumer products.