Stabilization of Beeswax-In-Water Dispersions Using Anionic Cellulose Nanofibers and Their Application in Paper Coating

Beeswax is a bio-sourced, renewable, and even edible material that stands as a convincing option to provide paper-based food packaging with moisture resistance. Nonetheless, the difficulty of dispersing it in water limits its applicability. This work uses oxidized, negatively charged cellulose nanofibers along with glycerol to stabilize beeswax-in-water emulsions above the melting point of the wax. The synergistic effects of nanocellulose and glycerol granted the stability of the dispersion even when it cooled down, but only if the concentration of nanofibers was high enough. This required concentration (0.6–0.9 wt%) depended on the degree of oxidation of the cellulose nanofibers. Rheological hindrance was essential to prevent the buoyancy of beeswax particles, while the presence of glycerol prevented excessive aggregation. The mixtures had yield stress and showed pseudoplastic behavior at a high enough shear rate, with their apparent viscosity being positively influenced by the surface charge density of the nanofibers. When applied to packaging paper, the nanocellulose-stabilized beeswax suspensions not only enhanced its barrier properties towards liquid water (reaching a contact angle of 96°) and water vapor (<100 g m−2 d−1), but also to grease (Kit rating: 5) and airflow (>1400 Gurley s). While falling short of polyethylene-coated paper, this overall improvement, attained using only one layer of a biobased coating suspension, should be understood as a step towards replacing synthetic waxes and plastic laminates ​
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