By learning from nature and using bio-based nanoparticles we can engineer sustainable high-performance materials with improved functionality. Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) are entering the marketplace as new ingredients for formulated chemical products. As a “green” and potentially food-grade additive, there is widespread interest in CNCs particularly as emulsifiers, rheological modifiers, and reinforcing agents. However, the surface chemistry of CNCs must be well understood and controlled in order to elucidate the interactions, stability and compatibility with liquids, polymers and small molecules.
This lecture will describe our recent advances in hybrid nanocellulose material development and show applications in food, health, energy production/storage, coatings, adhesives and water purification. Tailoring the location and role of CNCs at interfaces can lead us to a variety of biocompatible and enhanced emulsified products, injectable hydrogels, latexes and encapsulation strategies. Furthermore, we have developed novel networked CNC structures based on chemical crosslinking which provide promising tissue scaffolds as well as universal porous substrates that are able to support other functional nanomaterials like conductive nanoparticles, carbon nanotubes and metal organic frameworks. Overall, we believe that this improved understanding can bridge the gap between scientific research and the commercialization of greener next-generation technologies.