Reuse of red algae waste for the production of cellulose nanocrystals and its application in polymer nanocomposites.Int J Biol Macromol. 2018 Jan; 106:681-691.IJ
Red algae is widely available around the world and its exploitation for the production of agar products has become an important industry in recent years. The industrial processing of red algae generates a large quantity of solid fibrous wastes, which constitutes a source of serious environmental problems. In the present work, the utilization of red algae waste as raw material to produce high-quality cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) has been investigated, and the ability of the as-isolated CNC to reinforce polymer has been studied. Red algae waste was chemically treated via alkali, bleaching and acid hydrolysis treatments, in order to obtain pure cellulose microfibers and CNC. The raw waste and the as-extracted cellulosic materials were successively characterized at different stages of treatments using serval analysis techniques. It was found that needle-like shaped CNC were successfully isolated at nanometric scale with diameters and lengths ranged from 5.2±2.9 to 9.1±3.1nm, and from 285.4±36.5 to 315.7±30.3nm, respectively, and the crystallinity index ranged from 81 to 87%, depending on the hydrolysis time (30, 40 and 80min). The as-extracted CNC were used as nanofillers for the production of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)-based nanocomposite films with improved thermal and tensile properties, as well as optical transparency. It is shown that the addition of 8wt% CNC into the PVA matrix increased the Young's modulus by 215%, the tensile strength by 150%, and the toughness by 45%. Additionally, the nanocomposite films maintained the same transparency level of the neat PVA film (transmittance of ∼90% in the visible region), suggesting that the CNC were dispersed at the nanoscale.