Purdue University Develops New Way to use Nanocellulose
Researchers at Purdue University developed a new technique to manufacture polymer products using fewer solvents that is aimed at vehicles, food packaging and other manufactured items. The team said it hopes its technology provides a more business-friendly option to utilize sustainable cellulose nanomaterials.
Nanocellulose, a green nanomaterial derived from natural sources such as plant matter, as well as solvents or other dispersants are usually added to the mixture to improve the materials’ dispersion in polymers. The Purdue innovators created a method that involves mixing the nanocellulose in additives for the polymer material, such as plasticizer, and then compounding that mixture into the polymer instead of directly mixing them.
This technique could be applicable to a variety of polymers, including nylons used in the automotive industry. It enables nanocellulose to be easily extruded or injection molded into useful products with better properties that are more sustainable.
“We created a way to use the additives that are normally in polymers as the ‘solvent’ to disperse the nanocellulose during melt processing,” said Jeffrey Youngblood, a professor of materials engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering. “In this way, you still have increased properties, but without the pieces of the manufacturing process that require additional emissions-lowering components. This makes the process of using the nanocellulose, which is biodegradable, more sustainable as well.”