High-performance nanocellulose composite for Aviation and Aerospace

Period of Performance: 06/12/2017 - 03/11/2018


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Innovatech Engineering LLC
2073 Summit Lake Dr Suite 155
Tallahassee, FL 32317
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


The proposed research project examines the feasibility of design, synthesis, processing, and characterization of a new of bio-inspired, reinforced with a stiff filler. The resulting polymers are bestowed with unusual and previously unavailable properties which appear to be commercially viable for a number of industries, including aviation and aerospace. Significant efforts are currently devoted to the development and investigation of polymer nano- composites. The industrial interest in such materials is largely driven by the fact that the incorporation of mechanically robust, high-aspect-ratio, nanoscale fillers can enhance the mechanical properties in comparison to those of the neat polymer. In this context, cellulose nanofibers are attracting much interest, due to their outstanding mechanical properties and the abundance and renewable nature of cellulose. A broad palette of polymer nanocomposites comprising cellulose nanofibers has been studied in research laboratories around the world, involving different types (source, structure, and surface modification) of nanocellulose, and a diverse range of polymer matrices (vide infra). While many attractive properties and functions have been demonstrated, few of the processes employed to create such materials are readily scalable. This proposal is based on the notion that we can produce a commercially successful aerospace nanocomposite, based on recently discovered processing techniques in Co-PI Foster’s lab. The proposed research program seeks to develop these materials through the development of several robust, cost-effective, versatile and scalable methods for the mixing and processing of nanocomposites. The first aim is to devise approaches for the mixing of the components, which minimize the use of organic solvents and avoid surface modification of the nanocellulose, yet afford morphologies – percolating nanocellulose networks within the polymer matrix – that promote maximum reinforcement. The second aim is to identify conditions that allow for the melt- processing of the target materials without changing this morphology or imparting mechanical damage to the cellulose nanofibers due to high shear forces, so that 3-dimensional objects can be created.