Polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) and its nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) reinforced nanocomposites were produced and foamed and its properties—such as the dynamic mechanical properties, crystallization behavior, and solubility of carbon dioxide (CO2)—were evaluated. PVOH was mixed with an NFC fiber suspension in water followed by casting. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) images, as well as the optical transparency of the films, revealed that the NFC fibers dispersed well in the resulting PVOH/NFC nanocomposites. Adding NFC increased the tensile modulus of the PVOH/NFC nanocomposites nearly threefold. Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) analysis showed that the NFC served as a nucleating agent, promoting the early onset of crystallization. However, high NFC content also led to greater thermal degradation of the PVOH matrix. PVOH/NFC nanocomposites were sensitive to moisture content and dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) tests showed that, at room temperature, the storage modulus increased with decreasing moisture content. The solubility of CO2 in the PVOH/NFC nanocomposites depended on their moisture content and decreased with the addition of NFC. Moreover, the desorption diffusivity increased as more NFC was added. Finally, the foaming behavior of the PVOH/NFC nanocomposites was studied using CO2 and/or water as the physical foaming agent(s) in a batch foaming process. Only samples with a high moisture content were able to foam with CO2. Furthermore, the PVOH/NFC nanocomposites exhibited finer and more anisotropic cell morphologies than the neat PVOH films. In the absence of moisture, no foaming was observed in the CO2-saturated neat PVOH or PVOH/NFC nanocomposite samples.
Yottha Srithep, Lih-Sheng Turng, Ronald Sabo, Craig Clemons
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