Nanoengineering the Redispersibility of Cellulose Nanocrystals

Breanna Huntington, Mica L. Pitcher, Amir Sheikhi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Enhancing the redispersibility of dried colloidal particles to yield stable dispersions after rehydration is a persistent challenge in the sustainable processing of nanocelluloses due to hydrogen bonding-induced irreversible aggregation. Programming nanocelluloses, such as cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), with moieties that enable colloidal repulsion after rehydration may address this challenge and contribute to the United Nation (UN)’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) of urban development and sustainable living (SDGs 9 and 11) and cradle-to-cradle processing (SDG 12). We hypothesize that imparting electrosteric repulsion to CNC via polyanionic disordered cellulose chains (hairs) protruding from each end may render the dried nanocrystals highly redispersible in aqueous media. Anionic hairy CNC (AHCNC), that is, CNC decorated with dicarboxylated cellulose (DCC) chains, were synthesized by the preferential, successive periodate/chlorite oxidation of the disordered regions of cellulose fibrils, bearing >5 mmol of carboxylate groups per gram. The colloidal properties of AHCNC were compared with those of sulfate half-ester group-functionalized CNC and TEMPO-oxidized CNC (TOCNC) after redispersion in aqueous media, followed by comparing the redispersibility of AHCNC and CNC in aqueous solutions containing monovalent or divalent cations and at varying pH. The AHCNC had remarkable aqueous redispersibility even at high ionic strengths and extreme pH. The unique redispersibility mechanism of dried AHCNC relies on the synergistic steric and electrostatic repulsion forces, recuperated upon the rehydration of DCC. This work may open new opportunities for more sustainable and cost-effective handling and processing of nanocelluloses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-56
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 9 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry


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