A versatile approach to control the localization of cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) in PLA/PA11 blends is presented. A PEO/CNC mixture with a high level of CNC dispersion is prepared through a combination of high pressure homogenization and freeze‐drying. The prepared PEO/CNC mixture is then incorporated into the PLA/PA11 blends using two different strategies. Typically for CNC/PLA/PA11, the CNCs selectively localize in PA11. However, PEO‐coated CNC particles segregate into PLA irrespective of whether the PEO/CNC mixture is premixed with PLA or PA11. It is suggested that a strong interaction between PEO and CNC particles combined with the PLA/PEO miscibility facilitates the localization of PEO‐coated CNC in the PLA. The localization of PEO‐coated CNC in the PLA has no effect on the morphology of the PLA‐5PEO/PA11 with matrix/dispersed phase form. However, 2 wt % PEO‐coated CNC in the co‐continuous (PLA‐5PEO)/PA11 50/50 vol % blend diminishes the phase thickness from 11 ± 1 to 4 ± 1.5 μm. This is attributed to a retarded relaxation of the PLA phase. This work outlines a strategy to control the CNC localization into a given polymeric phase in a binary polymer–polymer mixture. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Polym. Sci., Part B: Polym. Phys. 2017
Typically, cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) particles in melt mixed PLA/PA11 blends, selectively localize in the PA11 phase. Significantly, when CNC is coated with PEO, it segregates in the PLA phase even when the PEO/CNC mixture is premixed with PA11. The phase coalescence of the co‐continuous blend substantially decreases in the presence of PEO‐coated CNC particles. This is attributed to a retarded relaxation of the PLA phase resulting from the development of a percolated CNC network structure.