Nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) is a natural fibrillar material with exceptionally high mechanical properties. It has, however, been exceedingly difficult to achieve nanocomposites with drastically improved mechanical properties by dispersing NFC as random networks to polymer matrices, even using compatibilization. We show nanocomposites consisting of aligned assemblies of multilayered graphene and NFC with excellent tensile mechanical properties without any surface treatments. The optimum composition was found at 1.25 wt % graphene multilayers, giving a Young’s modulus of 16.9 GPa, ultimate strength of 351 MPa, strain of 12%, and work-of-fracture of 22.3 MJ m–3. This combines high strength with relatively high toughness and is obtained by direct exfoliation of graphite within aqueous hydrogels of NFC where an optimum sonication power is described. The results suggest the existence of an attractive interaction between multilayered graphene flakes and cellulose. Aligned assemblies are obtained by removal of water by filtration. The concept can be beneficial for applications because it results in high mechanical properties by a simple and environmentally green process.
Malho, J-M., Laaksonen, P., Walther, A., Ikkala, O., & Linder, M. (2012). Facile method for stiff, tough, and strong nanocomposites by direct exfoliation of multilayered graphene into native nanocellulose matrix. Biomacromolecules, 13(4), 1093-1099. https://doi.org/10.1021/bm2018189