Cellulose nanofibrils (CNF) is a type of nanocellulose with vast potential for several applications. It is an emerging material which has been attracting interest from manufacturers due to its versatility and unique properties such as lightweight, high strength, high crystallinity, high specific surface area, and biodegradability. CNFs are attractive materials as filler for nanocomposites due to their ability to enhance mechanical properties and compatibility with several polymeric matrices, improving the mechanical strength of composites by almost 200%. Conventionally, nanocellulose is sourced from wood in developed countries which are primarily used to manufacture furniture, building structures, poles and posts.
The technology on offer utilizes non-wood resources such as oil palm biomass, one of the most abundant agricultural residues in Malaysia, to manufacture CNF. The method to process oil palm biomass and extract CNF is safe and chemical-free, providing an environmentally friendly option to manufacture CNF.
CNF produced from oil palm biomass offers the following features:
- Obtained from renewable and abundant source
- Extracted via a non-hazardous, environmentally friendly method
- Suitable for use as a filler to produce bio-based nanocomposites
- Compatible with polymeric matrices such as polylactic acid, polypropylene, polyethylene and polyhydroxyalkanoates
- Superior mechanical strength
- Highly crystalline
- Can be further functionalized
- Diameter: 10 to 50 nm (average)
- Degree of polymerisation: 800-2000
Potential applications for CNFs include (but are not limited to):
- Paper and paperboards – as a binder for improving strength and imparting enhanced moisture and oxygen barrier properties. Also provides smooth surfaces and better printability.
- Polymer Composites – as fillers for the reinforcement phase to improve mechanical properties and improve barrier properties
- Additive - as a nucleating agent (to improve the crystallization rate for enhanced melt-processing), thickening agent and stabilizer (as a rheology modifier, structural enhancer, and emulsifier) for various products
- Textiles – can be used to impart anti-bacterial properties, enhance textile strength or as a coating agent to improve colour density
- Electronics – to fabricate conductive devices, thin-film solar cell, printed electronics, coating devices etc