Cellulose nanofiber network for moisture stable, strong and ductile biocomposites and increased epoxy curing rate
Nanocomposites with high volume fractions (15-50 vol%) of nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) were prepared by impregnation of a wet porous NFC network with acetone/epoxy/amine solution. Infrared spectroscopy studies revealed a significant increase in curing rate of epoxy (EP) in the presence of NFC. The NFC provided extremely efficient reinforcement (at 15 vol%: 3-fold increase in stiffness and strength to 5.9 GPa and 109 MPa, respectively), and ductility was preserved. Besides, the glass transition temperature increased with increasing NFC content (from 68 degrees C in neat epoxy to 86 degrees C in 50 vol% composite). Most interestingly, the moisture sorption values were low and even comparable to neat epoxy for the 15 vol% NFC/EP. This material did not change mechanical properties at increased relative humidity (90% RH). Thus, NFC/EP provides a unique combination of high strength, modulus, ductility, and moisture stability for a cellulose-based biocomposite. Effects from nanostructural and interfacial tailoring are discussed. (C) 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.