Wilhelm Klauditz Fellow develops high-value bio-based materials using nanocellulose

Wilhelm Klauditz Fellow develops high-value bio-based materials using nanocellulose

March 3, 2020
Press Release: Fraunhofer WKI

Dr Hatem Abushammala is the fourth Wilhelm Klauditz Fellow of the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut WKI. Since August 2017, the materials scientist has been conducting a research project at the Fraunhofer WKI in Braunschweig on the preparation of electrically conductive nanoparticles using renewable materials. In addition to his research as a Fellow, he is leading an international research project

With his research project, Abushammala demonstrates that renewable raw materials can be used instead of petroleum-based resources for developing high-value functional materials for many areas of interest. At the Fraunhofer WKI, he is pursuing the idea of developing an innovative electrically conductive shell around nanocellulose particles to render them conductive. Such conductive nanocellulose would have great potential for a variety of applications, including sensing and electronics. There, nanocellulose could help in reducing the massive amounts of non-degradable electronic waste. In addition to its high mechanical flexibility and versatility, the conductive nanocellulose is biocompatible and could therefore be used in the medical field in sensory biochips as well as in drug-delivery systems.

Dr Abushammala’s research focuses on cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs), rod-shaped nanoparticles that can be extracted from cellulose and lignocelluloses using several methods. CNCs have many interesting properties including high mechanical strength, large surface area, possibility to functionalize, and ability to form liquid crystalline structures. However, CNCs are electrically non-conductive, limiting their potential in certain applications. Abushammala’s research aims at engineering the surface of CNCs in such a way that each CNC acts as an individual conductive rod, like a nanowire. To achieve this goal, specific molecules were chemically bonded to the surface of CNCs, which were then activated and bonded to one another. In doing this, Abushammala was able to build up a conductive shell around the CNCs. He optimized the process parameters in order to ensure the continuity of the conductive shell and thereby the free mobility of electrons throughout the CNC surface.

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