Nanocellulose has been subjected to a wide range of chemical modifications towards increasing its potential in certain fields of interest. These modifications either modulated the chemistry of the nanocellulose itself or introduced certain functional groups onto its surface, which varied from simple molecules to polymers. Among many, aliphatic and aromatic mono- and di-isocyanates are a group of chemicals that have been used for a century to modify cellulose. Despite only being used recently with nanocellulose, they have shown great potential as surface modifiers and chemical linkers to graft certain functional chemicals and polymers onto the nanocellulose surface. This review discusses the modification of cellulose and nanocellulose using isocyanates including phenyl isocyanate (PI), octadecyl isocyanate (OI), toluene diisocyanate (TDI), diphenylmethane diisocyanate (MDI), hexamethylene diisocyanate (HMDI), and their derivatives and polymers. It also presents the most commonly used nanocellulose modification strategies including their advantages and disadvantages. It finally discusses the challenges of using isocyanates, in general, for nanocellulose modification.
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