Influence of processing routes on morphology and low strain stiffness of polymer/nanofibrillated cellulose composites
The morphology of polymer/nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) composite sheets produced using different techniques and its influence on low strain stiffness were assessed by optical and transmission electron microscopy. Solvent processing led to relatively homogeneous NFC dispersions and significant reinforcement of the in-plane Young's modulus. The continuous cellular networks obtained by wet comingling of polylactide powder or latex with NFC also provided efficient and essentially scale independent reinforcement, in spite of the extensive agglomeration of the NFC. However, the irreversible nature of these networks is incompatible with low pressure thermoplastic processing routes such as physical foaming, and while they may be broken up by e.g. extrusion, this led to substantial loss in reinforcement, particularly at temperatures above the glass transition temperature of the matrix, consistent with the observation of isolated low aspect ratio NFC aggregates in the extruded specimens.