In Situ Lignin Modification Enabling Enhanced Interfibrillar Interactions in Lignocellulosic Nanomaterials toward Structural Applications

S Jiang and XY Liu and ZH Wang and L Zhou and ZQ Meng and XY Wang and GN Chen and SF Wang and Y Jiang, ACS SUSTAINABLE CHEMISTRY & ENGINEERING, 11, 7705-7718 (2023).

DOI: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.2c07748

Lignocellulose nanopaper (LNP) assembled from lignocellulose nanofibrils (LCNFs) is an emerging eco-friendly structural material applicable to a variety of fields. Lignin serves as a crucial functional component in the LNP matrix; however, it negatively affects the interfacial hydrogen- bonding behaviors among LCNFs and consequently the inferior mechanical performance of LNP. In this study, a mild ozone-oxidation strategy was used to modify lignin macromolecules in situ without significant degradation of carbohydrate polymers (i.e., cellulose and hemicellulose) in LCNFs whereupon the interfacial hydrogen-bond energy was dramatically improved in the assembly and deformation process of LNP as validated by molecular dynamics simulation. Consequently, the lignin-modified LNP exhibited significantly enhanced tensile strength (from 83 to 140 MPa) and toughness (from 1.9 to 7.1 J/m3), which even surpassed those of conventional cellulose nanopaper. Benefiting from the well-preserved lignocellulosic structure, lignin-modified LNP maintained its inherent favorable water and thermal stability and intriguing optical performance, which supported our developed LNP to be a multifunctional structural material for diversified fields, for example, flexible electronic applications. Additionally, the estimated production cost for our developed LNP was approximately half of that for conventional cellulose nanopaper due to its significantly lower resource inputs such as the material, water, and energy. Overall, our study provides a site- specific macromolecular modulation strategy for the economically and environmentally feasible fabrication of highperformance lignocellulosic nanomaterials toward advanced structural applications.

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