American Chemical Society
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Unexpected Gelation Behavior of Cellulose Nanofibers Dispersed in Glycols

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posted on 2022-10-17, 18:13 authored by Ruifu Wang, Hongrui He, Priyanka R. Sharma, Jiajun Tian, L. Daniel Söderberg, Tomas Rosén, Benjamin S. Hsiao
In this study, the gelation behavior of TEMPO-oxidized wood-based cellulose nanofiber (CNF) suspensions in two different glycols, ethylene glycol (EG) and propylene glycol (PG), was investigated near the overlap concentration and compared with that of aqueous CNF suspensions. The flow property of these non-aqueous and aqueous CNF suspensions was characterized by rheological, UV–vis, and rheo-optical techniques. It was found that the CNF(PG) suspensions exhibited stirring-reversible gelation behavior, where gelation could be induced simply by resting (i.e., prolonged holding time). However, this behavior was not observed for CNF(EG) and CNF(aq) suspensions. Higher temperature and higher CNF concentration could accelerate the gelation process of CNFs in PG, but no large-scale phase separation was detected by the optical techniques. Our study suggests that the reduced hydrophilic attraction between CNFs in PG is the main driving force for forming CNF-rich micro-domains, yielding a physically crosslinked network. This study suggests that the choice of solvent can be used to tailor and control the flow behavior of CNF suspensions, leading to designs of new cellulose-enabled nanocomposites for varying applications.