Nacre-mimetic clay/xyloglucan bionanocomposites - a chemical modification route for hygromechanical performance at high humidity.
ABSTRACT Nacre-mimetic bionanocomposites of high montmorillonite (MTM) clay content, prepared from hydrocolloidal suspensions, suffer from reduced strength and stiffness at high relative humidity. We address this problem by chemical modification of xyloglucan in (XG)/MTM nacre-mimetic nanocomposites, by subjecting the XG to regioselective periodate oxidation of side chains to enable it to form covalent crosslinks to hydroxyl groups in neighbouring XG molecules or to the MTM surface. The resulting materials are analysed by FTIR spectroscopy, thermogravimetric analysis, carbohydrate analysis, calorimetry, X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, tensile tests and oxygen barrier properties. We compare the resulting mechanical properties at low and high relative humidity. The periodate oxidation leads to a strong increase in modulus and strength of the materials. A modulus of 30 GPa for cross-linked composite at 50% relative humidity compared with 13.7 GPa for neat XG/MTM demonstrates that periodate oxidation of the XG side chains leads to crucially improved stress transfer at the XG/MTM interface, possibly through covalent bond formation. This enhanced interfacial adhesion and internal crosslinking of the matrix moreover preserves the mechanical properties at high humidity condition and leads to a Young's modulus of 21 GPa at 90 %RH.