Functional cellulosic material group

Developing highly functional biomass-based materials.

Group Leader
Assistant professor Naoki Wada
Fields of Specialty
Bioplastic, Chemical process
Cellulose, Cellulose nanofiber, Ionic liquid, High-performance composite material

Synthetic plastics made from petroleum oil have made our life more convenient. However, environmental pollution, such as microplastics in the ocean, is beginning to threaten the sustainable lives of all living organisms on the earth. Our research group focuses on cellulose, the most abundant renewable carbon source, to develop functional cellulosic resins.

Three kinds of hydroxyl groups of a repeating β-D-glucose unit in the cellulose chain can be chemically modified via standard chemical processes to produce cellulosic resin. The physical and chemical properties of cellulosic resin can be controlled by substituting hydroxyl groups with suitable substituents at an appropriate degree of substitution. We focus on an ionic liquid that can work as a suitable cellulose solvent and a catalyst for esterification.

On the other hand, nano-size cellulose fibers (cellulose nanofibers, or whiskers in short aspect ratio) can be obtained by physical and chemical micro-fibrillation. Cellulose molecules are tightly bound by inter- and intra-molecular hydrogen bonding between the cellulose chain, making a single nanofiber extremely tough. And thus, it is expected to be used not only as a biodegradable reinforcing fiber, but also as a dispersing agent, thickening agent, gelling agent, and so on. Our research group is also developing innovative biomass composite materials made of cellulose fiber and various natural polymers.