Atomic Force Microscopy Characterization of Cellulose Nanocrystals

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Langmuir 26,6 (2010) 4480-4488;


Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) are gaining interest as a "green" nanomaterial with superior mechanical and chemical properties for high-performance nanocomposite materials; however, there is a lack of accurate material property characterization of individual CNCs. Here, a detailed Study of the topography, elastic and adhesive properties of individual wood-derived CNCs is performed using atomic force microscopy (AFM). AFM experiments involving high-resolution dynamic mode imaging and jump-mode measurements were performed on individual CNCs under ambient conditions with 30% relative humidity (RH) and under a N-2 atmosphere with 0.1% RH. A procedure was also developed to calculate the CNC transverse elastic modulus (E-T) by comparing the experimental force-distance curves measured on the CNCs with 3D finite element calculations of tip indentation on the CNC. The E-T of ail isolated CNC was estimated to be between 18 and 50 GPa at 0.1% RH; however, the associated crystallographic orientation of the CNC could not be determined. CNC properties were reasonably uniform along the entire CNC length, despite variations along the axis of 3-8 rim in CNC height. The range of RH used in this study was found to have a minimal effect oil the CNC geometry, confirming the resistance of the cellulose crystals to water penetration. CNC flexibility was also investigated by using the AFM tip as a nanomanipulator.

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