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Sustainable chemistries and biorenewable materials

We are developing alternative materials and process methods for chemical synthesis, some of which are in close alignment with ongoing research efforts in sustainable nanomanufacturing. However, the goal of these projects is to develop green chemistries that offer advantages over conventional materials or synthetic methods, while maintaining compatibility with industrial manufacturing processes and supply chains. Criteria for improving sustainability are guided by the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry. Mechanochemistry enables us to prepare multi-gram quantities of intermediates and products at ambient temperatures and with low energy consumption. In many cases we are able to work with green solvents or minimize their use for chemical reactions.

Our push toward greener plastics with reduced carbon footprint involve blending conventional or bio-based polymers with a high fraction of cellulose nanofibers or CNFs. These can be cast into sheets that have similar or higher tensile strengths than thermoplastics made solely from petroleum-based feedstocks. Some of these utilize alkylated or esterified CNFs synthesized by mechanochemical methods, and blended with other materials into composites that are lightweight yet capable of withstanding high mechanical loads.

nanoporous membranes

Sustainable manufacturing of hybrid thermoplastics based on biorenewable materials. Left to right: TEM image of cellulose nanocrystals, cast film of CNF-glucomannan, roll-to-roll microgravure system for nanocellulose-based laminates.