A sterically stabilized aqueous suspension of “charge-free” cellulose nanowhiskers was prepared by hydrochloric acid hydrolysis of cotton powders and subsequent surface grafting of monomethoxy poly(ethylene glycol) (mPEG). The preparation scheme included carboxylation of the terminal hydroxyl groups in mPEG via oxidation with silica gel particles carrying 2,2,6,6-tetramethyl-1-pyperidinyloxyl (TEMPO) moieties and subsequent esterification between terminal carboxyls in mPEG and surface hydroxyl groups of cellulose nanowhiskers, mediated by 1,1'-carbonyldiimidazole (CDI) in dimethyl sulfoxide or dimethylacetamide. Some of the prepared PEG-grafted samples showed remarkable flow birefringence and enhanced stability after 24 h, even in 0.1 M NaCl, suggesting successful steric stabilization by efficient mPEG grafting. Actual PEG grafting via ester linkages was confirmed by attenuated total reflectance-Fourier transform infrared spectrometry. In a typical example, the amount of grafted mPEG was estimated as ca.
0.3 g/g cellulose by two measurements, i.e.
, weight increase after grafting and weight loss after alkali cleavage of ester linkages. Transmission electron microscopy indicated unchanged nanowhisker morphology after mPEG grafting.
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