“Transparent wood biocomposites based on PMMA combine high optical transmittance with excellent mechanical properties. One hypothesis is that despite poor miscibility the polymer is distributed at the nanoscale inside the cell wall. Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) experiments are performed to test this hypothesis, using biocomposites based on deuterated PMMA and “contrast-matched” PMMA. The wood cell wall nanostructure soaked in heavy water is quantified in terms of the correlation distance d between the center of elementary cellulose fibrils. For wood/deuterated PMMA, this distance d is very similar as for wood/heavy water (correlation peaks at q ≈ 0.1 Å–1). The peak disappears when contrast-matched PMMA is used, indeed proving nanoscale polymer distribution in the cell wall. The specific processing method used for transparent wood explains the nanocomposite nature of the wood cell wall and can serve as a nanotechnology for cell wall impregnation of polymers in large wood biocomposite structures.”
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