Nanofibrillation of dried pulp in NaOH solutions using bead milling
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The drying process in typical pulp production generates strong hydrogen bonding between cellulose microfibrils in refined cell walls and increases the difficulty in obtaining uniform cellulose nanofibers. To investigate the efficacy of alkaline treatment for cellulose nanofibrillation, this study applied a bead-milling method in NaOH solutions for the nanofibrillation of dried pulps. NaOH treatments loosened the hydrogen bonding between cellulose microfibrils in dried pulps and allowed preparation of cellulose nanofibers in 8 % NaOH with a width of approximately 12–20 nm and a cellulose I crystal form. Both the nanofiber suspensions prepared in 8 and 16 % (w/w) NaOH were formed into hydrogels by neutralization because of surface entanglement and/or interdigitation between the nanofibers. When the dried pulp was fibrillated in 16 % (w/w) NaOH, the sample after neutralization had a uniquely integrated continuous network. These results can be applied to the preparation of high-strength films and fibers with cellulose I crystal forms without prior dissolution of pulps.