The gel point is the lowest solids content at which a fibre suspension forms a continuously connected network and is related to the fibre aspect ratio. In this paper we firstly investigated the conditions required to accurately measure a gel point using sedimentation. We found that very heavily treated cellulose nanofibres can produce anomalous sedimentation data, due to the electrostatic repulsion from fibre surface charges dominating the gravity driven sedimentation. Screening the anionic surface charges by adding high levels of Na+ or Ca2+ ions reduced the electrostatic interactions between the fibres and allowed them to settle normally. Gel point measurement was then used to probe the development of nanofibre quality with increasing energy input for three different feedstocks: eucalypt kraft pulp, commercial microfibrillated cellulose and de-lignified, bleached spinifex pulp. By combining the data of the aspect ratio and average diameter, determined from SEM and TEM, we were able to compare the differences in feedstock processability. The aspect ratio of all three feedstocks increased with increasing homogenisation energy, showing that the fibre delamination dominated over fibre shortening. The slope of the aspect ratio versus energy consumption showed the ease of processing of each sample. The spinifex fibres had the fastest rate of aspect ratio increase and therefore were the most processable. Gel point is an excellent tool to track quality development of nanocellulose through processing and to compare the potential of different feedstocks for nanocellulose production.
- energy consumption
- fibre quality
- mechanical treatment
Raj, P., Mayahi, A., Lahtinen, P., Varanasi, S., Garnier, G. I. L., Martin, D. J., & Batchelor, W. J. (2016). Gel point as a measure of cellulose nanofibre quality and feedstock development with mechanical energy. Cellulose, 23(5), 3051-3064. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10570-016-1039-2