Nanocomposites made from cellulose nanocrystals and tailored segmented polyurethanes



The effect of the addition of microcrystalline cellulose nanofibers into linear segmented polyurethanes (SPU) was investigated. The polymers were synthesized with 4,4-methylene-bisphenyldiisocyanate (MDI) and poly(tetramethyleneglycol) (PTMG) with 1,4-butanediol (BD) as chain extender. The nanocrystals were introduced during the PU polymerization, which resulted in cellulose nanofibrils covalently linked to the polymer. The interactions between the cellulose nanofibrils and the matrix lead to interesting changes in the behavior of the PU, with the hard segment (HS) phase being more affected by these interactions. SPUs with different contents of HS were synthesized to better understand these effects (23 to 45 wt %). Thermal, thermo-mechanical and mechanical characterization of the nanocomposites were performed. In general, the nanocellulose favored the phase separation between the soft and hard domains generating an upward shift in the melting temperatures of the crystalline phases, an increase in the Young's modulus and a decrease in deformation at break. Comparison of the unfilled polymer responses and that of the nanocomposites showed that by increasing cellulose content, increased dynamic storage and tensile modulus as well as melting temperatures and enthalpy of melting of the soft domains can be achieved. Addition of cellulose during the polymerization essentially erased the potential shape memory behavior originally displayed by some of the SPU. However, a sample prepared by adding the cellulose nanocrystals after the reaction showed that the mechanical properties were still improved, while the shape memory behavior of the polymer was preserved. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci, 2010