Plastics and polymers comprise an expansive and growing portion of the materials in consumer products. The field of renewable and biodegradable polymers offers an appealing opportunity to continue developing plastics and materials along with an alternative to petroleum-based products that can have damaging environmental effects. Cellulose, the most abundant biological polymer on Earth, is an especially intriguing material for its diverse physical properties, its mass abundance, and the chemistry it can undergo, becoming a platform for other materials and reactions. On it's smallest mechanical scale, the material becomes cellulose nano fibers.
The reaction between nanofibers of cellulose and methacrylic anhydride was studied using an aqueous basic suspension. The methacrylic anhydride was shown the react with cellulose to attach methacrylate groups to the surface of the nanofibers. The concentration of methacrylic anhydride was shown to have an effect of the degree to which the reaction progressed on the surface with higher concentrations leading to more reacted surfaces. There appeared to be a point where higher concentrations of methacrylic anhydride did not further react surfaces.
Methacrylate groups on the surface of cellulose provide interesting opportunities to propagate radical reactions from the surface. These reactions could provide mechanisms for cross-linking cellulose networks or adding other functional groups or polymer materials. The reaction also helps us to understand the nature of cellulose surfaces and the reactions it can support.
McOscar, Thomas, "Functionalization of Nanocellulouse Fibers For Use In Radical Reactions" (2015). Honors College. 237.