A facile route for concurrent fabrication and surface selective functionalization of cellulose nanofibers by lactic acid mediated catalysis

Sci Rep. 2023 Sep 7;13(1):14730. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-41989-3.


Celulose nanofibers are lightweight, recycable, biodegradable, and renewable. Hence, there is a great interest of using them instead of fossil-based components in new materials and biocomposites. In this study, we disclose an environmentally benign (green) one-step reaction approach to fabricate lactic acid ester functionalized cellulose nanofibrils from wood-derived pulp fibers in high yields. This was accomplished by converting wood-derived pulp fibers to nanofibrillated “cellulose lactate” under mild conditions using lactic acid as both the reaction media and catalyst. Thus, in parallel to the cellulose nanofibril production, concurrent lactic acid-catalyzed esterification of lactic acid to the cellulose nanofibers surface occured. The direct lactic acid esterification, which is a surface selective functionalization and reversible (de-attaching the ester groups by cleavage of the ester bonds), of the cellulose nanofibrils was confirmed by low numbers of degree of substitution, and FT-IR analyses. Thus, autocatalytic esterification and cellulose hydrolysis occurred without the need of metal based or a harsh mineral acid catalysts, which has disadvantages such as acid corrosiveness and high recovery cost of acid. Moreover, adding a mineral acid as a co-catalyst significantly decreased the yield of the nanocellulose. The lactic acid media is successfully recycled in multiple reaction cycles producing the corresponding nanocellulose fibers in high yields. The disclosed green cellulose nanofibril production route is industrial relevant and gives direct access to nanocellulose for use in variety of applications such as sustainable filaments, composites, packaging and strengthening of recycled fibers.

PMID:37679445 | PMC:PMC10484996 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-023-41989-3


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