Raghuwanshi, Vikram; Garusinghe, Uthpala Manavi; Ilavsky, Jan; Batchelor, Warren J. ; Garnier, Gil
Controlling nanoparticles (NPs) aggregation in cellulose/NPs composites allows to optimise NPs driven properties and their applications. Polyelectrolytes are used to control NPs aggregation and their retention within the fibrous matrix. Here, we aim at evaluating how a polyelectrolyte (Cationic Polyacrylamide; CPAM, molecular weight: 13 MDa, charge: 50%, Radius of gyration: 30–36 nm) adsorbs and re-conforms onto the surface of silica(SiO2) NPs differing in diameter (8, 22 and 74 nm) and to investigate the respective NPs aggregation in cellulose matrices. SEM shows the local area distribution of NPs in composites. Ultra-SAXS (USAXS) allows to evaluate the average NPs size distribution and the inter-particle interactions at length scale ranging from 1 to 1000 nm. USAXS data analysis reveals that CPAM covers multiple NPs of the smaller diameter (8 nm), presumably with a single chain to form large size NPs aggregates. As the NPs diameter is increased to 22 nm, CPAM re-conforms over NP surface forming a large shell of thickness 5.5 nm. For the composites with NPs of diameter 74 nm, the CPAM chain re-conforms further onto NP surface and the surrounding shell thickness decreases to 2.2 nm. Structure factor analysis reveals higher structural ordering for NPs as increases their diameter, which is caused by different conformations adopted by CPAM onto NPs surface.