Lignin and Xylan as Interface Engineering Additives for Improved Environmental Durability of Sustainable Cellulose Nanopapers
Cellulose materials and products are frequently affected by environmental factors such as light, temperature, and humidity. Simulated UV irradiation, heat, and moisture exposure were comprehensively used to characterize changes in cellulose nanopaper (NP) tensile properties. For the preparation of NP, high-purity cellulose from old, unused filter paper waste was used. Lignin and xylan were used as sustainable green interface engineering modifiers for NP due to their structural compatibility, low price, nontoxic nature, and abundance as a by-product of biomass processing, as well as their ability to protect cellulose fibers from UV irradiation. Nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) suspension was obtained by microfluidizing cellulose suspension, and NP was produced by casting films from water suspensions. The use of filler from 1 to 30 wt % significantly altered NP properties. All nanopapers were tested for their sensitivity to water humidity, which reduced mechanical properties from 10 to 40% depending on the saturation level. Xylan addition showed a significant increase in the specific elastic modulus and specific strength by 1.4- and 2.8-fold, respectively. Xylan-containing NPs had remarkable resistance to UV irradiation, retaining 50 to 90% of their initial properties. Lignin-modified NPs resulted in a decreased mechanical performance due to the particle structure of the filler and the agglomeration process, but it was compensated by good property retention and enhanced elongation. The UV oxidation process of the NP interface was studied with UV-Vis and FTIR spectroscopy, which showed that the degradation of lignin and xylan preserves a cellulose fiber structure. Scanning electron microscopy images revealed the structural formation of the interface and supplemented understanding of UV aging impact on the surface and penetration depth in the cross-section. The ability to overcome premature aging in environmental factors can significantly benefit the wide adaption of NP in food packaging and functional applications.