(275f) Biorenewable Chitin Reinforced Polyethylene Oxide(PEO) Light Weight Composites

Wu, J., Georgia Institute of Technology
Meredith, J. C., Georgia Institute of Technology

There is currently tremendous interest in the development of new bio-renewable sources of high-performance materials.  A chief aim is to substitute portions of mineral, or petroleum-based materials, with high-strength sustainable materials sources.  For example, recent research has focused on cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and nanofibrillated cellulose for high-strength, lightweight composites.  Less well-explored, but equally promising, are chitin nanocrystals and nanofibers, which also show high-strength like CNCs.  Chitin is also a poly(saccharide), structurally similar to cellulose, but is obtainable from the shells of shellfish and insect exoskeletons, as opposed to plant sources for cellulose.  In this work, we explore the potential to use chitin nanocrystalline fibers as a strengthening and stiffening filler in polymers.  Chitin nanofibers were extracted from crab shells and used to create composite films with polyethylene oxide (PEO). The films were tested for mechanical properties, including tensile strength, modulus, strain at break, as well as thermal properties via DMA, DSC and TGA.  Interactions between chitin and PEO were also investigated using FTIR spectroscopy.  This talk will report the key results and summarize the future prospects for utilization of chitin nanofibers as polymer fillers.