Investigating Adsorption of Cellulose Nanocrystals at Air–Liquid and Substrate–Liquid Interfaces after pH Manipulation

Geosmin A. Turpin, Andrew Nelson, Stephen A. Holt, Luke W. Giles, Izabela Milogrodzka, Roger G. Horn, Rico F. Tabor, Leonie van t. Hag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Coatings of anisotropic nanoparticles such as cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) can provide tuneable physicochemical surface properties to a substrate such as modifying wettability. These coatings are often formed using dip coating, with CNCs enriched at the air–water interface transferred to a substrate as a monolayer. This process is commonly facilitated by surfactants, which can remain present in the final product, affecting coating properties. In this work, an “additive free” method for creating CNC coatings by exploiting electrostatic interactions within the pH window between pH 2–4 is demonstrated. Within this pH window, the air–water interface is positively charged and CNCs are negatively charged, with surface pressure tensiometry, X-ray reflectivity, and Brewster angle microscopy indicating that CNCs are driven to the air–water interface. The optimal condition for monolayer coverage was pH 3; at pH 2 charge screening causes localized flocculation at the air–water interface, and at pH 4 interparticle repulsion leads to incomplete, patchy coverage. These findings successfully translate to dip coated CNC monolayers as characterized by atomic force microscopy, showing that the manipulation of pH can facilitate the surfactant-free dip coating of CNCs, with advantages over the surfactants that are more typically used.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2202452
Number of pages8
JournalAdvanced Materials Interfaces
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2023


  • adsorption
  • cellulose nanocrystals
  • coating
  • pH manipulation
  • reflectometry

Cite this