The Multifunctional Chemical Tunability of Wood-Based Polymers for Advanced Biomaterials Applications
This century has been witnessing the increasing development of ecofriendly materials derived from natural fibers to reinforce composites. In this chapter, wood-based polymers (i.e., cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin) have been chosen as the chief biopolymeric templates for review because together they comprise the most abundant resource on the planet, viz., lignocellulosics. Moreover, although wood has long been used as a raw material for building, fuel, papermaking, and various other applications, the potential of wood-based polymers to reinforce composites has shown significant progress. One of the greatest challenges to advancing this area had been the lack of economic and abundant alternatives for natural fiber-reinforced composites. This issue is currently being addressed by the application of lignocellulosics. The chemical, thermal, and physical properties of the biopolymers and resultant composites are influenced by the molecular weight distribution and composition of the biopolymers with the miscibility of the individual components being of great significance and often being the limiting aspect to the optimization of the physical properties of the final blends. To overcome miscibility issues between many naturally occurring polymers and associated composites, chemical modification and graft polymerization of the surfaces of such biopolymers are common approaches.