The Isolation of Cellulose Nanocrystals from Pistachio Shells and Their Use in Water Actuating Smart Composites


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Virginia Tech


In recent years, there has been a significant amount of research into cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs). These materials are categorized as being between 5 and 10 nm wide and being 100-250 nm long. CNCs have several uses, but the most common is the reinforcement of polymer composites. Here I present 2 papers investigating CNC-based composites.

By using standard bleaching procedures, pure cellulose was isolated from pistachio shells. Sulfuric acid was used to isolate cellulose nanocrystals from the purified cellulose. The obtained crystals were investigated by scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and X-ray diffraction. The CNCs were also added to thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) to observe the reinforcement effects by dynamic mechanical analysis. Pistachio shells offered a high yield source material for CNCs, with a high aspect ratio but a low crystallinity. They did offer significant reinforcement of the TPU, but less than the commercially available wood-based CNCs.

Wood-based CNCs were also mixed with TPU in structured composites to create a film which actuates when exposed to water. The method of actuation is based on the different amounts of absorption of water in the composite as opposed to the pure TPU. The actuation was modeled based on the absorption of water and the modulus of two components. Mechanical properties of the CNC/TPU composites were evaluated via dynamic mechanical analysis, and water absorption was measured gravimetricaly. The tests helped us to evaluate our model which we compared to the composites.



cellulose, cellulose nanocrystals, composites, 3D printing