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Green approach for the activation and functionalization of jute fibers through ball milling

  • Rocio GallegoEmail author
  • Carmen C. Piras
  • Laurens A. J. Rutgeerts
  • Susana Fernandez-Prieto
  • Wim M. De Borggraeve
  • Jose M. Franco
  • Johan Smets
Original Research


As well known, cellulose fibers, defibrillated/activated in different degrees or even chemically modified, can be employed as additives in matrixes of different nature with the aim of modulating some properties such as the mechanical resistance, rheological behavior or hydrophobicity of the product. Consequently, there is an increasing interest in the incorporation of these materials in a wide variety of products, being necessary the development of green methodologies for their chemical modification. The objective of this work is the use of the ball milling technology as tool for the activation and chemical modification of cellulose fibers, specifically of cellulosic material from jute. The traditional method used to date for the NCO-functionalization of cellulose fibers requires a solvent as reaction medium, the action of a catalyst and a previous stage of mercerization to boost the reactivity of the fibers. Accordingly to the former, jute fibers were NCO-functionalized, on one side, evading previous mercerization and, on other side, applying two different alkali-based activation pre-treatments that lead to materials with different crystallinity index. In addition to this, and after having optimized milling conditions, both activation and NCO-functionalization were successfully carried out in a planetary ball mill avoiding solvent, catalyst and previous alkalization. Cellulose fibers esterification was successfully implemented over already ball milled cellulosic material, showing that activation and chemical modification do not need to be performed at the same time. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy provided the follow-up of each reaction and the impact of ball milling on the fibers was analyzed by hydrodynamic diameter measurements. Thus, it is demonstrated that ball milling can be proposed as an efficient and environmentally friendly methodology for the activation and/or functionalization of cellulose fibers.

Graphic abstract


Cellulose Jute fibers Ball milling Isocyanate 



This work is part of the research project Intelligent Structuring Systems for Complex Flowing Products sponsored by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program for research, technological development and demonstration under Grant Agreement no. 612330. The authors gratefully acknowledge its financial support. The authors also acknowledge the support of Celesa for jute fibers samples supply, and Steff Van Loy and the department of Chemical Engineering of KU Leuven for the use of the ball mill.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of HuelvaHuelvaSpain
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  3. 3.Brussels Innovation CenterProcter and Gamble Services Company NVStrombeek BeverBelgium
  4. 4.Pro2TecS—Chemical Process and Product Technology Research CenterUniversity of HuelvaHuelvaSpain

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