New Nanocellulose-based Polymer Manufacturing Technology for Vehicles
The Purdue team has developed a new technology that provides a more business-friendly option to utilize sustainable cellulose nanomaterials for use in vehicles, food packaging and other manufactured items.
Avoiding Solvents in Polymer Manufacturing
Normally to process nanocellulose, solvents or other dispersants are usually added to the mixture to improve the material’s dispersion in polymers.
These methods can be very expensive for manufacturers, who must add additional processes and machinery to comply with emission standards that may be impacted using the solvents.
The Purdue innovators created a method that involves mixing the nanocellulose in additives for the polymer material, such as plasticizer, and then compounding that mixture into the polymer instead of directly mixing them.
Applicable to Nylons and PLA
This technique could be applicable to a wide variety of polymers, including nylons used in the automotive industry and polylactic acid and ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer used in food packaging. It enables nanocellulose to be easily extruded or injection molded into useful products with better properties that are more sustainable.
“We created a way to use the additives that are normally in polymers as the ‘solvent’ to disperse the nanocellulose during melt processing,” Youngblood said. “In this way, you still have increased properties, but without the pieces of the manufacturing process that require additional emissions-lowering components. This makes the process of using the nanocellulose, which is biodegradable, more sustainable as well,” said Jeffrey Youngblood, a professor of materials engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering.