Starch crosslinking for cellulose fiber modification and starch nanoparticle formation
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As a low cost natural polymer, starch is widely used in paper, food, adhesive, and many other industries. In order to improve the performance of starch, crosslinking is often conducted either in the processes of starch modification or during the application processes. Many crosslinkers have been developed in the past for crosslinking starch. Ammonium zirconium carbonate (AZC) is one of the common crosslinkers for crosslinking starch in aqueous solutions, having been widely used as a starch crosslinking agent in paper surface coating for more than 20 years. However, the mechanisms of starch crosslinking with AZC have not been well studied. In order to optimize the crosslinking chemistry of starch and find new paths for the utilization of starch in papermaking, a better understanding of the starch crosslinking mechanism is necessary. This thesis focuses on the fundamental study of starch crosslinking in an aqueous solution and its applications in fiber surface grafting, filler modification, and starch nanoparticle formation. Particularly, the thesis contains three major parts: (1) Mechanism study of starch crosslinking induced by AZC: In this thesis, the crosslinking (or gelation) kinetics of starch/AZC blends were investigated by using rheological measurements. The evolution of viscoelastic properties of AZC solutions and the AZC-starch blends was characterized. It was found that for both AZC self-crosslinking and AZC-starch co-crosslinking, the initial bond formation rate and the gel strength had a strong power law relationship with the concentrations of both AZC and starch. It is suggested that the development of the crosslinking network is highly dependent on the AZC concentration, while the starch concentration effect is less significant. It was determined that the activation energy of AZC self-crosslinking was approximately 145-151 kJ/mol, while the activation energy of AZC-starch co-crosslinking was 139 kJ/mol. (2) Fiber and filler modifications with starch and crosslinkers: Besides reacting with starch, AZC can react with cellulose which also contains hydroxyl groups. Theoretically, it is possible to use AZC as a crosslinker / coupling agent to graft starch onto cellulose fibers. It is believed that the grafted starch on fiber surfaces can improve the fiber bonding capability. In this thesis, a facile method to graft starch onto cellulose fiber surfaces through the hydrogen bond formation among cellulose, starch and AZC was developed. Compared with the paper sheets made of fibers with an industry refining level (420 ml CSF), the paper sheets made of fibers with a much lower refining degree but with grafted starch showed higher paper strengths, including the tensile strength, stiffness and z direction tensile; meanwhile, a faster drainage rate during web formation could also be achieved. Not only can the fiber-fiber bonding be improved by grafting starch onto fiber surfaces, but the filler-fiber bonding can also be improved if starch can be effectively coated on the filler surface. This concept has been supported by the early studies. In this thesis, the effects of the crosslinking of starch in the filler modification for the papermaking application were also studied. (3) Mechanism of starch nanoparticle formation during extrusion with crosslinkers: It was reported that starch crosslinking could facilitate the reduction of starch particle size during reactive extrusion. However, the mechanism of the particle size reduction by starch crosslinking was not illustrated. The reason that the crosslinking can cause the particle size reduction of starch during extrusion is fundamentally interesting. In this thesis, the mechanism of starch particle size reduction during extrusion with and without crosslinkers was investigated by identifying the contributions of thermal and mechanical effects. The effects of extrusion conditions, including temperature, screw speed, torque, starch water content and crosslinker addition, on the particle size were studied. It was found that the addition of crosslinkers could significantly increase the shear force (torque), and consequently facilitate the reduction of the particle size. The results indicate that for extrusion without a crosslinker, the starch particle size decreased with the increase of temperature. At 100 degree Celsius, the starch particles with a size of 300 nm could be obtained. With the addition of appropriate crosslinkers (glyoxal), the starch particle size could be reduced to around 160 nm, even at a lower extrusion temperature of 75 degree Celsius .