February 2011

LVEM5 Low Voltage TEM Key in NRC Highlight Research in Nanocrystalline Cellulose Materials

It’s Nature’s miracle fibre: a biodegradable polymer that is stronger than steel, lightweight, yet durable.


Called nanocrystalline cellulose, or NCC, this renewable and recyclable resource could be used as a performance enhancer in everything from automotive panels and aircraft parts to paint, adhesives and resins — even medical products such as adhesive bandages and gauze.

Nanocrystalline cellulose is a fundamental building block of cellulose, the most abundant organic polymer on earth. Cellulose contains both crystalline and non-crystalline (amorphous) regions — NCC is obtained by chemically removing the amorphous cellulose, leaving behind tiny, nano-scale needles.


The first potential benefit is that NCC offers a way of harnessing the waste products from agriculture and forestry.


NCC can be used in development of new bioproducts to replace or supplement petrochemical supplies. By replacing just two percent of the polymers that are now made from petrochemicals, we could significantly reduce our carbon footprint.


In addition to its strength and durability, nanocrystalline cellulose reflects light, which makes it suitable for use in optically reflective films found on passports, credit cards and paper money. And since this material is biodegradable, you could use carboxylated NCC for targeted drug delivery by hooking its carboxyl handle to a drug.


NRC-BRI technical officer Sabahudin Hrapovic says that the “LVEM5 proved itself as a crucial tool for characterization of nanocrystalline cellulose. It gave us the ability to assess and discriminate structure and morphology of the fibers on various stages of processing, to evaluate and optimize the fiber sources. The TEM imaging with LVEM5 is very fast and provides particularly high contrast on unstained fibers, which we simply could not achieve before with conventional, 100kV TEM equipment.”


biovision microscope
NRC-BRI technical officer Sabahudin Hrapovic uses a LVEM5 benchtop transmission
electron microscope to observe the size and distribution of nanocrystalline
cellulose particles.


For more information please see:

National Research Council of Canada:
Highlights – Nano-polymer could reduce carbon footprint

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