An electrochemical process has been used to compact cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) and access aligned micron-sized CNC fibers. Placing a current across aqueous solutions of carboxylic acid functionalized CNCs (t-CNC-COOH) or carboxylic acid/primary amine functionalized CNCs (t-CNC-COOH-NH2) creates a pH gradient between the electrodes, which results in the migration and concentration of the CNC fibers at their isoelectric point. By matching the carboxylic acid/amine ratio of CNCs and collagen (ca. 30:70 carboxylic acid:amine ratio), it is possible to coelectrocompact both nanofibers and access aligned nanocomposite fibers. t-CNC-COOH-NH2/collagen fibers showed a maximum increase in mechanical properties at 5 wt % of t-CNC-COOH-NH2. Compared to collagen/CNC films which have no alignment in the plane of the films, the tensile properties of the aligned fibers show a significant enhancement in the wet mechanical properties (40 MPa vs 230 MPa) for the 5 wt % of t-CNC-COOH-NH2/collagen films and fiber, respectively.
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