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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

A Simple and Cost-Effective FeCl3-Catalyzed Functionalization of Cellulose Nanofibrils: Toward Adhesive Nanocomposite Materials for Medical Implants

Tikhomirov, Evgenii; Franconetti, Antonio; Johansson, Mathias; Sandstrom, Corine; Carlsson, Elin; Andersson, Brittmarie; Hailer, Nils P.; Ferraz, Natalia; Palo-Nieto, Carlos


In the present work, we explored Lewis acid catalysis, via FeCl3, for the heterogeneous surface functionalization of cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs). This approach, characterized by its simplicity and efficiency, facilitates the amidation of nonactivated carboxylic acids in carboxymethylated cellulose nanofibrils (c-CNF). Following the optimization of reaction conditions, we successfully introduced amine-containing polymers, such as polyethylenimine and Jeffamine, onto nanofibers. This introduction significantly enhanced the physicochemical properties of the CNF-based materials, resulting in improved characteristics such as adhesiveness and thermal stability. Reaction mechanistic investigations suggested that endocyclic oxygen of cellulose finely stabilizes the transition state required for further functionalization. Notably, a nanocomposite, containing CNF and a branched low molecular weight polyethylenimine (CNF-PEI 800), was synthesized using the catalytic reaction. The composite CNF-PEI 800 was thoroughly characterized having in mind its potential application as coating biomaterial for medical implants. The resulting CNF-PEI 800 hydrogel exhibits adhesive properties, which complement the established antibacterial qualities of polyethylenimine. Furthermore, CNF-PEI 800 demonstrates its ability to support the proliferation and differentiation of primary human osteoblasts over a period of 7 days.


nanocellulose surface-chemistry; Lewis acid catalysis; nanocellulose-based composites; coating hydrogels; medical implants

Published in

ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
2024, Volume: 16, number: 23, pages: 30385-30395