Atomic-scale modeling of cellulose nanocrystals

Xiawa Wu, Purdue University


Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs), the most abundant nanomaterials in nature, are recognized as one of the most promising candidates to meet the growing demand of green, bio-degradable and sustainable nanomaterials for future applications. CNCs draw significant interest due to their high axial elasticity and low density-elasticity ratio, both of which are extensively researched over the years. In spite of the great potential of CNCs as functional nanoparticles for nanocomposite materials, a fundamental understanding of CNC properties and their role in composite property enhancement is not available. In this work, CNCs are studied using molecular dynamics simulation method to predict their material' behaviors in the nanoscale. (a) Mechanical properties include tensile deformation in the elastic and plastic regions using molecular mechanics, molecular dynamics and nanoindentation methods. This allows comparisons between the methods and closer connectivity to experimental measurement techniques. The elastic moduli in the axial and transverse directions are obtained and the results are found to be in good agreement with previous research. The ultimate properties in plastic deformation are reported for the first time and failure mechanism are analyzed in details. (b) The thermal expansion of CNC crystals and films are studied. It is proposed that CNC film thermal expansion is due primarily to single crystal expansion and CNC-CNC interfacial motion. The relative contributions of inter- and intra-crystal responses to heating are explored. (c) Friction at cellulose-CNCs and diamond-CNCs interfaces is studied. The effects of sliding velocity, normal load, and relative angle between sliding surfaces are predicted. The Cellulose-CNC model is analyzed in terms of hydrogen bonding effect, and the diamond-CNC model compliments some of the discussion of the previous model. In summary, CNC's material properties and molecular models are both studied in this research, contributing to the present understanding of this material and leading to some possible future work.




Ruan, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Mechanical engineering|Materials science

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