Moisture uptake in nanocellulose: the effects of relative humidity, temperature and degree of crystallinity

M Garg and V Apostolopoulou-Kalkavoura and M Linares and T Kaldeus and E Malmstrom and L Bergstrom and I Zozoulenko, CELLULOSE, 28, 9007-9021 (2021).

DOI: 10.1007/s10570-021-04099-9

Foams made from cellulose nanomaterials are highly porous and possess excellent mechanical and thermal insulation properties. However, the moisture uptake and hygroscopic properties of these materials need to be better understood for their use in biomedical and bioelectronics applications, in humidity sensing and thermal insulation. In this work, we present a combination of hybrid Grand Canonical Monte Carlo and Molecular Dynamics simulations and experimental measurements to investigate the moisture uptake within nanocellulose foams. To explore the effect of surface modification on moisture uptake we used two types of celluloses, namely TEMPO-oxidized cellulose nanofibrils and carboxymethylated cellulose nanofibrils. We find that the moisture uptake in both the cellulose nanomaterials increases with increasing relative humidity (RH) and decreases with increasing temperature, which is explained using the basic thermodynamic principles. The measured and calculated moisture uptake in amorphous cellulose (for a given RH or temperature) is higher as compared to crystalline cellulose with TEMPO- and CM-modified surfaces. The high water uptake of amorphous cellulose films is related to the formation of water-filled pores with increasing RH. The microscopic insight of water uptake in nanocellulose provided in this study can assist the design and fabrication of high-performance cellulose materials with improved properties for thermal insulation in humid climates or packaging of water sensitive goods.

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