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BIMR Seminar Series - Emily Cranston

Event Date: 
Monday, April 17, 2017 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Title: Transforming Nanocellulose into Sustainable Products through Surface Engineering


By learning from nature and using bio-based nanoparticles we can engineer sustainable high-performance materials with improved functionality. Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) are entering the marketplace as new ingredients for formulated chemical products. As “green” and potentially food-grade additives, there is widespread interest in CNCs particularly as emulsifiers, rheological modifiers, and reinforcing agents. We believe that the surface chemistry of CNCs must be well understood and controlled in order to elucidate the interactions, stability and compatibility of CNCs with liquids, polymers and small molecules. I will present recent characterization of CNCs with polymers and surfactants and show applications in (1) wet and dry oil/water emulsions and emulsion polymerization; (2) injectable hydrogels with controlled crosslinking and nanoparticle alignment; and (3) aqueous foams, CNC-templated polymer foams and aerogel materials. This new understanding can be used to extend food/cosmetic products, encapsulation technologies, latex paints/adhesives, and tissue engineering scaffolds. Furthermore, the dried CNC aerogel materials offer a flexible 3D porous structure to support other functional nanomaterials (carbon nanotubes, capacitive particles and polymers, metal organic frameworks, etc.) which we have demonstrated as energy storage and water purification devices. In many of these examples, the combination of CNCs with adsorbing polymers (or surfactants, or other nanomaterials) has shown synergistic effects and materials that are more stable, stronger and/or require only small amounts of CNCs to greatly impact properties. This work promises new, low-cost, non-toxic CNC-based materials and highlights not only the prospect of fabricating tailored products but also the complexities and challenges of including CNCs in multi-component formulations.


Emily Cranston is an Associate Professor in Chemical Engineering at McMaster University in Canada. Her research focuses on sustainable nanocomposites and hybrid materials from cellulose and other biopolymers. Her academic path began at McGill University where she received her Honours B.Sc. in Chemistry with bio-organic specialty and a PhD in Materials Chemistry in the group of Professor Derek Gray. The study of value-added products from cellulose took her to Stockholm, Sweden as a postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) before she returned to Canada in 2011. Emily is the recipient of the KINGFA Young Investigator’s Award from the American Chemical Society’s Cellulose & Renewable Materials division and is a Distinguished Engineering Fellow at McMaster University.


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