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Assessment of the Alga Cladophora glomerata as a Source for Cellulose Nanocrystals

Karl Mihhels, Neptun Yousefi, Jaanika Blomster, Iina Solala, Laleh Solhi, Eero Kontturi

Abstract: Nanocellulose is isolated from cellulosic fibers and exhibits many properties that macroscale cellulose lacks. Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) are a subcategory of nanocellulose made of stiff, rodlike, and highly crystalline nanoparticles. Algae of the order Cladophorales are the source of the longest cellulosic nanocrystals, but manufacturing these CNCs is not well-studied. So far, most publications have focused on the applications of this material, with the basic manufacturing parameters and material properties receiving little attention. In this article, we investigate the entirety of the current manufacturing process from raw algal biomass (Cladophora glomerata) to the isolation of algal cellulose nanocrystals. Yields and cellulose purities are investigated for algal cellulose and the relevant process intermediates. Furthermore, the effect of sulfuric acid hydrolysis, which is used to convert cellulose into CNCs and ultimately determines the material properties and some of the sustainability aspects, is examined and compared to literature results on wood cellulose nanocrystals. Long (>4 μm) CNCs form a small fraction of the overall number of CNCs but are still present in measurable amounts. The results define essential material properties for algal CNCs, simplifying their future use in functional cellulosic materials.

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