Read the full article here: Biomacromolecules, 2019, DOI: 10.1021/acs.biomac.8b01659
Nanopapers containing cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) are an emerging and sustainable class of high performance materials. The diversification and improvement of the mechanical and functional property space critically depend on integration of CNFs with rationally designed, tailor-made polymers following bioinspired nanocomposite designs. Here we combine for the first time CNFs with colloidal dispersions of vitrimer nanoparticles (VP) into mechanically coherent nanopaper materials. Vitrimers are permanently cross-linked polymer networks that undergo temperature-induced bond shuffling through an associative mechanism and which allow welding and reshaping on the macroscale. The choice of low glass transition, hydrophobic vitrimers derived from fatty acids and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), and achieving dynamic reshuffling of cross-links through transesterification reactions enables excellent compatibility and covalent attachment onto the CNF surfaces. Moreover, the resulting films are ductile, stretchable and offer high water resistance. The success of imparting the vitrimeric polymeric behavior into the nanocomposite, as well as the curing mechanism of the vitrimer, is highlighted through thorough analysis of structural and mechanical properties. The dynamic exchange chemistry of the vitrimers enables efficient welding of two nanocomposite parts as characterized by good bonding strength during single lap shear tests. In the future, we expect that the dynamic character of vitrimers becomes a promising option for the design of mechanically adaptive bioinspired nanocomposites and for shaping and reshaping such materials.