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posted on 10.06.2019 by Reaz Chowdhury

Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and its composite coatings may impart many benefits in packaging, electronic, optical, etc. applications; however, large-scale coating production is a major engineering challenge. To fill this knowledge gap, a potential large-scale manufacturing technique, roll-to-roll reverse gravure processing, has been described in this work for the manufacture of CNC and CNC-poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) coatings on a flexible polymer substrate. Various processing parameters which control the coating structure and properties were examined. The most important parameters in controlling liquid transfers were gravure roll, gravure speed, substrate speed, and ink viscosity. After successful fabrication, coating adhesion was investigated with a crosshatch adhesion test. The surface roughness and morphology of the coating samples were characterized by atomic force microscopy and optical profilometer. The Hermans order parameter (S) and coating transparency were measured by UV–Vis spectroscopy. The effect of viscosity on CNC alignment was explained by the variation of shear rate, which was controlled by the micro-gravure rotation. Finally, the CNC alignment effect was investigated for gas barrier and thermal management applications.

In packaging applications, cellulose nanomaterials may impart enhanced gas barrier performance due to their high crystallinity and polarity. In this work, low to superior gas barrier pristine nanocellulose films were produced using a shear-coating technique to obtain a range of anisotropic films. Induction of anisotropy in a nanocellulose film can control the overall free volume of the system which effectively controls the gas diffusion path and hence, controlled anisotropy results in tunable barrier properties. The highest anisotropy materials showed a maximum of 900-fold oxygen barrier improvement compared to the isotropic arrangement of nanocellulose film. The Bharadwaj model of nanocomposite permeability was modified for pure nanoparticles, and the CNC data were fitted with good agreement. Overall, the oxygen barrier performance of anisotropic nanocellulose films was 97 and 27 times better than traditional barrier materials such as biaxially oriented poly(ethylene terephthalate) (BoPET) and ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer (EVOH), respectively, and thus could be utilized for oxygen-sensitive packaging applications.

The in-plane thermal conductivity of CNC - PVA composite films containing different PVA molecular weights, CNC loadings and varying order parameters (S) were investigated for potential application in thermal management of flexible electronics. Isotropic CNC - PVA bulk films with 10-50 wt% PVA solid loading showed significant improvement in thermal conductivity compared to either one component system (PVA or CNC). Furthermore, anisotropic composite films exhibited in-plane thermal conductivity as high as ~ 3.45 W m-1 K-1 in the chain direction, which is higher than most polymeric materials used as substrates for flexible electronics. Such an improvement can be attributed to the inclusion of PVA as well as to a high degree of CNC orientation. The theoretical model was used to study the effect of CNC arrangement (both isotropic and anisotropic configurations) and interfacial thermal resistance on the in-plane thermal conductivity of the CNC-PVA composite films. To demonstrate an application for flexible electronics, thermal images of a concentrated heat source on both neat PVA and CNC-PVA composite films were taken that showed the temperature of the resulting hot spot was lower for the composite films at the same power dissipation.


National Science Foundation Scalable Nanomanufacturing program under Award CMMI-1449358


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Materials Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Jeffrey P. Youngblood, Chair

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Pablo D. Zavattieri

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Alexander Wei

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. George T. C. Chiu