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Cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) thin films are of increasing interest as sustainable materials due to their anisotropic mechanical properties. Previous computational work has shown that the fracture mechanisms of CNC films vary as a function of particle alignment with respect to the loading direction. However, it is challenging to experimentally measure the mechanical anisotropy of extremely thin CNC films due to their brittleness. Here, a new experimental approach was developed to identify the effect of CNC alignment on modulus while simultaneously observing the fracture mechanisms. In this method, uniaxial tensile strain is applied to a CNC film laminated on a silicone substrate with a mechanical stage mounted over a microscope. The modulus calculated by measuring the wavelength of wrinkles that formed perpendicular to the tensile strain direction at low strains during mechanical testing. The elastic modulus of CNC films decayed exponentially as the misalignment of particles to the loading direction increased. By carrying out coarse-grained modeling and comparing the misalignment angle with the crack opening direction beyond the fracture strains, fracture mechanism dependence on misalignment was observed.


This is the published version of the Son, Hyeyoungl; Smith, Dawson Michael; Li, Zhaofan; Chang, Taehoo; Xia, Wenjie; Davis, Chelsea Simone.(2023). "Particle alignment effects on mechanical properties of cellulose nanocrystal thin films". Materials Advances. DOI: 10.1039/D2MA00870J