Challenges to Achieving Strong but Fully Degradable Adhesive Joints between Wet Cellulose Surfaces
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The dramatic loss of strength upon exposure to water is one of the challenges preventing the widespread substitution of plastic packaging with paper and paperboard. Although treatment with conventional wet strength resins and other adhesive polymers can strengthen wet paper, it is at the expense of green credentials, including easy recycling or rapid composting. The goal of this work was to demonstrate the adhesive requirements for strong, wet cellulose-cellulose joints that can be recycled easily because the joint strength can be destroyed by the presence of a weak reducing agent. Cellulose membrane surfaces were first treated with a bound layer of carboxymethyl cellulose, modified to have covalently tethered hydrazide groups. Joints were fabricated by laminating two hydrazide-modified membranes with a polymeric adhesive bearing aldehyde functionality. Aldehydes spontaneously condense with hydrazide to give hydrazone bonds. When the adhesive was oxidized dextran, the wet laminates had an intermediate strength. Upon exposure to a reducing agent, the joint strength was reduced to nearly zero because every hydrazone moiety connecting two cellulose surfaces included a cleavable disulfide linkage. By contrast, glyoxalated cationic polyacrylamide gave very strong wet joints. However, the wet adhesion was dominated by polyelectrolyte complexation, and the presence of hydrazone linkages had little influence on the wet adhesion. We conclude that robust joint degradability will require cleavable linkages in the adhesive backbone while minimizing polyelectrolyte complexation.
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