Elastic properties of thin poly(vinyl alcohol)-cellulose nanocrystal membranes

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In spite of extensive studies on the preparation and characterization of nanocomposite materials, the correlation of their properties at the nanoscale with those in bulk is a relatively unexplored area. This is of great importance, especially for materials with potential biomedical applications, where surface properties are as important in determining their applicability as bulk characteristics. In this study, the nanomechanical characteristics of thin poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVOH)poly(acrylic acid) (PAA)cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) membranes were studied using the nanoindentation module in an atomic force microscope (AFM) and the properties were compared with the macro-scale properties obtained by tensile tests. In general, the elastic properties measured by nanoindentation followed the same trend as macro-scale tensile tests except for the PVOH 85-PAA 0-CNC 15 sample. In comparison to the macro-scale elastic properties, the measured elastic moduli with AFM were higher. Macro-scale tensile test results indicated that, in the presence of PAA, incorporation of CNCs up to 20wt% improved the elastic modulus of PVOH, but when no PAA was added, increasing the CNC content above 10wt% resulted in their agglomeration and degradation in mechanical properties of PVOH. The discrepancy between macro-scale tensile tests and nanoindentation in the PVOH 85-PAA 0-CNC 15 sample was correlated to the high degree of inhomogeneity of CNC dispersion in the matrix. It was found that the composites reinforced with cellulose nanocrystals had smaller indentation imprints and the pile-up effect increased with the increase of cellulose nanocrystal content. © 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd.

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