In this study, traditional polyol was partially replaced with green, environmentally friendly cellulose nanofibrils (CNF). The effects of CNF on the performance of CNF-reinforced polyurethane foam nanocomposites were investigated using scanning electron microscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis, thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA), and a compression test. The results showed that the introduction of CNF into the polyurethane matrix not only created stronger urethane bonding between the hydroxyl groups in the cellulose chain and isocyanate groups in polymethylene polyphenylisocyanate, but also developed an additional filler–matrix interaction between CNF and polyurethane. With the increase of the CNF replacement ratio, a higher glass transition temperature was obtained, and a higher amount of char residue was generated. In addition, an increase of up to 18-fold in compressive strength was achieved for CNF-PUF (polyurethane foam) nanocomposites with a 40% CNF replacement ratio. CNF has proved to be a promising substitute for traditional polyols in the preparation of polyurethane foams. This study provides an interesting method to synthesize highly green bio-oriented polyurethane foams.
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