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Structural and Morphological Properties of Wool Keratin and Cellulose Biocomposites Fabricated Using Ionic Liquids

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posted on 25.10.2021, 23:46 authored by Karleena Rybacki, Stacy A. Love, Bailey Blessing, Abneris Morales, Emily McDermott, Kaylyn Cai, Xiao Hu, David Salas-de la Cruz
In this study, the structural, thermal, and morphological properties of biocomposite films composed of wool keratin mixed with cellulose and regenerated with ionic liquids and various coagulation agents were characterized and explored. These blended films exhibit different physical and thermal properties based on the polymer ratio and coagulation agent type in the fabrication process. Thus, understanding their structure and molecular interaction will enable an understanding of how the crystallinity of cellulose can be modified in order to understand the formation of protein secondary structures. The thermal, morphological, and physiochemical properties of the biocomposites were investigated by Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), thermal gravimetric analysis (TGA), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), and X-ray scattering. Analysis of the results suggests that both the wool keratin and the cellulose structures can be manipulated during dissolution and regeneration. Specifically, the β-sheet content in wool keratin increases with the increase of the ethanol solution concentration during the coagulation process; likewise, the cellulose crystallinity increases with the increase of the hydrogen peroxide concentration via coagulation. These findings suggest that the different molecular interactions in a biocomposite can be tuned systematically. This can lead to developments in biomaterial research including advances in natural based electrolyte batteries, as well as implantable bionics for medical research.

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