Most polymers and plastics are derived from petroleum-based sources, contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. These materials, known as “synthetic polymers” are an integral part of modern society and are critical components in nearly every consumer and industrial product. They are particularly vital to advanced technologies, electronics, transportation and health care. Partial or complete replacement of synthetic polymers with natural polymers derived from renewable resources (e.g. cellulose, chitosan) is being aggressively pursued globally by funding agencies and corporate research groups. The challenge is that the properties of natural polymers are often unsuitable for the desired applications. Modifying natural polymers by attaching small amounts of another polymer (usually synthetic) can yield effectively new materials (“hybrid polymers”) with properties that closely resemble current synthetic polymers. We are collaborating with our industry partner (FPinnovations) and with Professors in Montpellier, France to develop new approaches for the modification of two different natural polymers, cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) and chitosan.

Graft Modification of Cellulose Nanocrystals

Graft Modification of Chitosan