Engineering cellulose nanofibre suspensions to control filtration resistance and sheet permeability

Qing Li, Praveena Veronica Raj, Fatema Hasan Abdulla Abbas Husain, Swambabu Varanasi, Thomas Rainey, Gil Bernard Didier Garnier, Warren Jeffrey Batchelor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines and quantifies the effect of adding polyelectrolytes to cellulose nanofibre suspensions on the gel point of cellulose nanofibre suspensions, which is the lowest solids concentration at which the suspension forms a continuous network. The lower the gel point, the faster the drainage time to produce a sheet and the higher the porosity of the final sheet formed. Two new techniques were designed to measure the dynamic compressibility and the drainability of nanocellulose–polyelectrolyte suspensions. We developed a master curve which showed that the independent variable controlling the behaviour of nanocellulose suspensions and its composite is the structure of the flocculated suspension which is best quantified as the gel point. This was independent of the type of polyelectrolyte used. At an addition level of 2 mg/g of nanofibre, a reduction in gel point over 50 % was achieved using either a high molecular weight (13 MDa) linear cationic polyacrylamide (CPAM, 40 % charge), a dendrimer polyethylenimine of high molecular weight of 750,000 Da (HPEI) or even a low molecular weight of 2000 Da (LPEI). There was no significant difference in the minimum gel point achieved, despite the difference in polyelectrolyte morphology and molecular weight. In this paper, we show that the gel point controls the flow through the fibre suspension, even when comparing fibre suspensions with solids content above the gel point. A lower gel point makes it easier for water to drain through the fibre network, reducing the pressure required to achieve a given dewatering rate and reducing the filtering time required to form a wet laid sheet. We further show that the lower gel point partially controls the structure of the wet laid sheet after it is dried. Halving the gel point increased the air permeability of the dry sheet by 37, 46 and 25 %, when using CPAM, HPEI and LPEI, respectively. The resistance to liquid flow was reduced by 74 and 90 %, when using CPAM and LPEI. Analysing the paper formed shows that sheet forming process and final sheet properties can be engineered and controlled by adding polyelectrolytes to the nanofibre suspension.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391 - 402
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Cite this