Incorporating Cellulose Nanocrystals into the Core of Polymer Latex Particles via Polymer Grafting.
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Surface-initiated atom transfer radical polymerization was used to graft hydrophobic poly(butyl acrylate) from cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) resulting in compatibilized CNCs that were successfully incorporated inside the core of polymer latex particles. CNCs are anisotropic nanoparticles derived from renewable resources and have potential as reinforcing agents in nanocomposites. However, challenges due to the incompatibility between cellulose and hydrophobic polymers and processing difficulties, such as aggregation, have limited the performance of CNC nanocomposites produced to date. Here, CNCs were incorporated into the miniemulsion polymerization of methyl methacrylate by adding polymer-grafted CNCs to the monomer phase. A poly(methyl methacrylate)-CNC nanocomposite latex was subsequently produced in situ, whereby polymer-grafted CNCs (with optimized graft length) were located inside the latex particles, as shown by transmission electron microscopy. This work provides a method for controlling the location of CNCs in latex-based nanocomposites and may extend the use of CNCs in commercial adhesives and coatings.
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