Biomacromolecules, Vol.6, No.2, 612-626, 2005
Review of recent research into cellulosic whiskers, their properties and their application in nanocomposite field
There are numerous examples where animals or plants synthesize extracellular high-performance skeletal biocomposites consisting of a matrix reinforced by fibrous biopolymers. Cellulose, the world's most abundant natural, renewable, biodegradable polymer, is a classical example of these reinforcing elements, which occur as whiskerlike microfibrils that are biosynthesized and deposited in a continuous fashion. In many cases, this mode of biogenesis leads to crystalline microfibrils that are almost defect-free, with the consequence of axial physical properties approaching those of perfect crystals. This quite "primitive" polymer can be used to create high performance nanocomposites presenting outstanding properties. This reinforcing capability results from the intrinsic chemical nature of cellulose and from its hierarchical structure. Aqueous suspensions of cellulose crystallites can be prepared by acid hydrolysis of cellulose. The object of this treatment is to dissolve away regions of low lateral order so that the water-insoluble, highly crystalline residue may be converted into a stable suspension by subsequent vigorous mechanical shearing action. During the past decade, many works have been devoted to mimic biocomposites by blending cellulose whiskers from different sources with polymer matrixes.