The goal of the research was to understand how different conditions during spray drying affected the properties of the respective cellulose nanofibrils. The study found that high-quality powders under 20 µm were produced at a 90% fibrillation level of each different feedstock.
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Characterization of spray dried cellulose nanofibrils produced by a disk refining process at different fineness levels
Sungjun Hwang, Colleen C. Walker, Soydan Ozcan, Halil Tekinalp, Yousoo Han & Douglas J. Gardner
Three types of wood pulp feedstocks including bleached softwood kraft, unbleached softwood kraft and old corrugated containers were disk refined to produce cellulose nanofibrils at different fineness levels ranging from 50 to 100%, and the resulting aqueous suspensions of cellulose nanofibrils were spray dried. The spray drying experiments were carried out to examine different processing conditions for the different CNF feedstock types and fines level at various suspension concentrations to produce dry samples with free-flowing powder morphologies. The fineness levels and solids contents of CNF suspensions were set to 80% or more and 1.8% or less, respectively. If the solids content of the CNF solutions was high and the fibrillation level was low, plugging was experienced in the spray head because of the high viscosity of the suspensions, resulting in production of poor-quality powders. In terms of reduction in processing energy, even if the CNF suspension solids content was increased to 1.5 wt.%, the powder quality and the production yields were excellent. It was confirmed that high-quality powder under 20 µm were produced at a 90% fibrillation level of all CNF feedstocks. The resulting dry CNF powders were characterized to determine particle size distributions and morphological properties via a scanning electron microscope and a laser diffraction particle size analyzer. The particle sizes were smaller at higher fibrillation levels and lower solids content of the CNF suspensions. The CNF suspension derived from bleached kraft pulp, the average particle size decreased by 43% and 33% with the lowered solids contents from 1.8 to 1%, and the increased fineness levels from 80 to 100%, respectively.