Nanocomposites of LLDPE and Surface-Modified Cellulose Nanocrystals Prepared by Melt Processing.Molecules. 2018 Jul 19; 23(7)M
Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) were surface modified by esterification in tetrahydrofuran (THF) at 25 °C using different catalysts and anhydrides bearing different alkyl side chain lengths. Unmodified and acetic anhydride (AcAnh)-modified CNCs were studied as potential nanofillers for linear low-density poly(ethylene) (LLDPE). Nanocomposites were prepared by melt processing. Determination of the size and size distribution of CNCs in the nanocomposites by SEM revealed an enhanced compatibility of the AcAnh-modified CNCs with the LLDPE matrix, since the average size of the aggregates of the modified CNCs (0.5⁻5 μm) was smaller compared to that of the unmodified CNCs (2⁻20 μm). Tensile test experiments revealed an increase in the nanocomposites' stiffness and strain at break-by 20% and up to 90%, respectively-at the CNC concentration of 5 wt %, which is close to the critical percolation concentration. Since the CNC nanofiller simultaneously reduced LLDPE crystallinity, the reinforcement effect of CNCs was hampered. Therefore, the molding temperature was increased to 120 °C, and, in this way, the greatest increase of the Young's modulus was achieved (by ~45%). Despite the enhanced compatibility of the AcAnh-modified CNCs with the LLDPE matrix, no additional effect on the mechanical properties of the nanocomposites was observed in comparison to the unmodified CNC.