This material could be used for a variety of purposes ranging from counterfeiting mechanisms for banknotes to high-gradient magnetic separation.

The high porosity of the material (> 90 %) allows the flow of gases; whereas its hydrophilicity permits the absorption of aqueous solutions. Furthermore, thanks to the magnetic nanoparticles, the nanocomposite can be remotely actuated using a small magnet both in the dry and wet states says Dr German Salazar-Alvarez at the Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry.

Cellulose is the most abundant biopolymers on Earth, being a major constituent of cotton or trees, for instance. Besides plants, cellulose is also present in algae and even some bacterial species can secrete a cellulose that is highly porous, strong, lightweight, and hydrophilic. Functionalisation of nanocellulose offers a platform for production of low-cost, recyclable nanomaterials for both functional and structural applications.

The nanocomposite concept is suitable for industrial scale production based on different sources of nanocellulose, such as trees. We are currently exploring the formation of nanoparticle-nanocellulose-based composites with different functional properties within the Wallenberg Wood Science Center concludes German Salazar-Alvarez.

Jonathan Agbenyega