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International Journal of Polymer Science
Volume 2018, Article ID 1654295, 12 pages
https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/1654295
Research Article

Lignocellulosic Composites Prepared Utilizing Aqueous Alkaline/Urea Solutions with Cold Temperatures

1Functional Foods Research Unit, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 1815 N. University St., Peoria, IL 61604, USA
2Bio-Oils Research Unit, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 1815 N. University St., Peoria, IL 61604, USA
3Mund-Lagowski Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Bradley University, Peoria, IL 61625, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Brent Tisserat; vog.adsu.sra@taressit.tnerb

Received 12 September 2017; Revised 14 December 2017; Accepted 4 January 2018; Published 14 February 2018

Academic Editor: Penwisa Pisitsak

Copyright © 2018 Brent Tisserat et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Lignocellulosic composites (LCs) were fabricated by partially dissolving cotton to create a matrix that was reinforced with osage orange wood (OOW) particles and/or blue agave fibers (AF). LCs were composed of 15–35% cotton matrix and 65–85% OWW/AF reinforcement. The matrix was produced by soaking cotton wool in a cold aqueous alkaline/urea solvent and was stirred for 15 minutes at 350 rpm to create a viscous gel. The gel was then reinforced with lignocellulosic components, mixed, and then pressed into a panel mold. LC panels were soaked in water to remove the aqueous solvent and then oven dried to obtain the final LC product. Several factors involved in the preparation of these LCs were examined including reaction temperatures (−5 to −15°C), matrix concentration (15–35% cotton), aqueous solvent volume (45–105 ml/panel), and the effectiveness of employing various aqueous solvent formulations. The mechanical properties of LCs were determined and reported. Conversion of the cotton into a suitable viscous gel was critical in order to obtain LCs that exhibited high mechanical properties. LCs with the highest mechanical properties were obtained when the cotton wools were subjected to a 4.6% LiOH/15% urea solvent at −12.5°C using an aqueous solvent volume of 60 ml/panel. Cotton wool subjected to excessive cold alkaline solvents volumes resulted in irreversible cellulose breakdown and a resultant LC that exhibited poor mechanical properties.