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Nano-engineered cellulose prevents scaling

By Scott Jenkins |

Efforts to find more environmentally friendly anti-scalant approaches have yielded a new form of functionalized nanocellulose that can prevent the nucleation and growth of calcium carbonate, the most common component of industrial scale. Based on the biopolymer cellulose, the anti-scaling agents do not contain phosphorus, which can cause environmental damage in water runoff.

To engineer the anti-scaling agents, researchers at McGill University (Montreal, Que.; www.mcgill.ca) worked with a form of nanocellulose, known as hairy nanocellulose, that had been previously discovered at McGill. This form of cellulose is so named because it results from cellulose nanofibrils (the building blocks of plant cell walls) that are cut at precise locations to produce nanoparticles with amorphous regions on either end of crystalline regions. The amorphous “hairs” can be chemically functionalized to a much greater degree than other forms of nanocellulose.nano-engineered cellulose

Onto the strands of nanocellulose, the researchers added negatively charged dicarboxyl groups, which interact with positively charged calcium ions and interferes with the formation of CaCO3.

Lead author Amir Sheikhi, now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles (www.ucla.edu), says complete scale inhibition is observed when 10 parts per million (ppm) of the hairy nanocellulose is added to an already scaled surface under a supersaturated condition.

The researchers are studying planar silica surfaces coated with hairy nanocelluloses as scale-resistant interfaces. n

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