Relaxation dynamics of water in the vicinity of cellulose nanocrystals

Inseok Chae, Luis E. Paniagua-Guerra, Mica L. Pitcher, Roya Koshani, Mengxue Yuan, Yen Ting Lin, Jongcheol Lee, Steven E. Perini, Amir Sheikhi, Bladimir Ramos-Alvarado, Michael T. Lanagan, Seong H. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Water molecules near cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs; produced via the sulfuric acid-catalyzed hydrolysis of wood pulp) are believed to relax slower than those in the bulk liquid, which may result in unique properties of CNC aqueous dispersions. This study analyzed the polarization behavior of water molecules in CNC aqueous dispersions and other reference samples using a dielectric relaxation spectroscopy (DRS) technique in the microwave frequency range (0.2–20 GHz). As the CNC concentration increases, two slow relaxation components become prominent. The comparison with DRS data of aqueous dispersions of nanoporous silica, polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), and hairy CNC (HCNC) with amorphous chains protruding from both ends suggested that these slow relaxation modes of water near CNC surfaces cannot be attributed to direct hydrogen bonding interactions with the hydroxyl (OH) groups exposed and immobilized at the solid surface. Instead, they are similar to the water molecules interacting with OH groups attached to flexible polymer chains. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of the polarization behavior of water near the (110) facet of cellulose Iβ crystals confirmed that the interactions of water molecules with the cellulose crystal surface do not cause slower relaxations in the frequency range studied via the DRS. These results indicated that the CNC surface cannot be depicted with the crystallographic facets of cellulose Iβ; instead, it resembles a polymer-brush surface on which the short glucan residues or fragments of the strong acid-catalyzed hydrolysis process are swollen and extended into the aqueous phase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8051-8061
Number of pages11
Issue number13
StatePublished - Sep 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Polymers and Plastics

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