Biomacromolecules, Vol.21, No.4, 1471-1479, 2020
Zwitterionic Cellulose Nanofibrils with High Salt Sensitivity and Tolerance
To improve the salt tolerance/sensitivity of cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs), zwitterionic cellulose nanofibrils (ZCNFs) were prepared from softwood bleached kraft pulp fibers via a sequential process of anionic modification with 2,2,6,6-tetramethylepiperidin-1-oxyl (TEMPO)-mediated oxidation, cationic modification with (2,3-epoxypropyl) trimethylammonium chloride (EPTMAC), and high-pressure homogenization. To produce ZCNFs with different contents of cation group, EPTMAC loadings of 0.15 to 1.15 g/g fiber were explored during cationization. The obtained ZCNFs were characterized by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), X-ray photoelectron spectra (XPS), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and rheological measurements. The salt tolerance of the ZCNFs was investigated by adding mixed salts into the ZCNF dispersions. The results demonstrated that the ZCNFs with both anionic and cationic charges were produced. Compared with the TEMPO-mediated oxidized cellulose nanofibrils (TOCNFs), the ZCNFs exhibited an excellent "salt-thickening" behavior under the studied salt concentrations (2-24% w/w). Moreover, increasing the content of the cation group increased the salt tolerance/sensitivity of ZCNFs. This work demonstrated that introducing cationic charges to the anionic charged TOCNFs imparts the produced ZCNFs with excellent salt sensitivity and tolerance, which could expand the application of nanocellulose in oil recovery or wastewater treatment.