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Forskningsartikel2019Vetenskapligt granskadÖppen tillgång

Superabsorbent and Fully Biobased Protein Foams with a Natural Cross-Linker and Cellulose Nanofibers

Capezza, Antonio J.; Wu, Qiong; Newson, William R.; Olsson, Richard T.; Espuche, Eliane; Johansson, Eva; Hedenqvist, Mikael S.


The development of fully natural wheat gluten foams showing rapid and high uptake of water, sheep blood, and saline solution, while maintaining high mechanical stability in the swollen state, is presented. Genipin was added as a natural and polar cross-linker to increase the polarity of the protein chains, whereas cellulose nanofibers (CNFs) were added as a reinforcement/stiffener of the foams, alone or in combination with the genipin. The presence of only genipin resulted in a foam that absorbed up to 25 g of water per gram of foam and a more than 15 g uptake in only 8 min. In contrast, with CNF alone, it was not possible to maintain the mechanical stability of the foam during the water uptake and the protein foam disintegrated. The combination of CNF and genipin yielded a material with the best mechanical stability of the tested samples. In the latter case, the foam could be compressed repeatedly more than 80% without displaying any structural damage. The results revealed that a strong network had formed between the wheat gluten matrix, genipin, and cellulose in the foam structure. A unique feature of the absorbent/foam, in contrast to commercial superabsorbents, was that it was able to rapidly absorb nonpolar liquids (here, n-heptane) due to the open-cell structure. The capillary-driven absorption due to the open-cell structure, the high liquid absorption in the cell walls, and the mechanical properties (both in dry and swollen states) of these natural foams make them interesting as a sustainable replacement for a range of petroleum-based foam materials, including absorbent hygiene products such as sanitary pads.

Publicerad i

ACS Omega
2019, Volym: 4, nummer: 19, sidor: 18257-18267