Strong cellulose nanofibre–nanosilica composites with controllable pore structure

Uthpala M. Garusinghe, Swambabu Varanasi, Gil Garnier, Warren Batchelor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Flexible nanocellulose composites with silica nanoparticle loading from 5 to 77 wt% and tunable pore size were made and characterised. The pore structure of the new composites can be controlled (100–1000 nm to 10–60 nm) by adjusting the silica nanoparticle content. Composites were prepared by first complexing nanoparticles with a cationic dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate polyacrylamide, followed by retaining this complex in a nanocellulose fibre network. High retention of nanoparticles resulted. The structural changes and pore size distribution of the composites were characterised through scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and mercury porosimetry analysis, respectively. The heavily loaded composites formed packed bed structures of nanoparticles. Film thickness was approximately constant for composites with low loading, indicating that nanoparticles filled gaps created by nanocellulose fibres without altering their structure. Film thickness increased drastically for high loading because of the new packed bed structure. Unexpectedly, within the investigated loading range, the level of the tensile index on nanocellulose mass basis remained constant, showing that the silica nanoparticles did not significantly interfere with the bonding between the cellulose nanofibres. This hierarchically engineered material remains flexible at all loadings, and its unique packing enables use in applications requiring nanocellulose composites with controlled pore structure and high surface area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2511–2521
Number of pages11
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Composites
  • Nanocellulose
  • Nanoparticles
  • Porosity
  • Strength
  • Structure

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