Triggered biodegradable composites made entirely from renewable resources are urgently sought after to improve material recyclability or be able to divert materials from waste streams. Many biobased polymers and natural fibers usually display poor interfacial adhesion when combined in a composite material. Here we propose a way to modify the surfaces of natural fibers by utilizing bacteria (Acetobacter xylinum) to deposit nanosized bacterial cellulose around natural fibers, which enhances their adhesion to renewable polymers. This paper describes the process of modifying large quantities of natural fibers with bacterial cellulose through their use as substrates for bacteria during fermentation. The modified fibers were characterized by scanning electron microscopy, single fiber tensile tests, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and inverse gas chromatography to determine their surface and mechanical properties. The practical adhesion between the modified fibers and the renewable polymers cellulose acetate butyrate and poly(L-lactic acid) was quantified using the single fiber pullout test.
Pommet, M., Juntaro, J., Heng, J. Y. Y., Mantalaris, A., Lee, A. F., Wilson, K., Kalinka, G., Shaffer, M. S. P., & Bismarck, A. (2008). Surface modification of natural fibers using bacteria: depositing bacterial cellulose onto natural fibers to create hierarchical fiber reinforced nanocomposites. Biomacromolecules, 9(6), 1643-1651. https://doi.org/10.1021/bm800169g