Nanotechnology, which has already revolutionized material science, pharma, electronics, and industrial chemistry, is now spreading its wings in the fields of agriculture & allied sectors. ICAR-CIRCOT has taken the lead in the ICAR system to explore the applications of nanotechnology in agriculture, cotton textiles, and composites. ICAR-CIRCOT, Mumbai ventured into Nanotechnology from 2004 onwards to impart novel functional finishes to cotton textiles to impart antibacterial and UV protection properties using silver and zinc oxide nanopares.
Nanocellulose refers to cellulose polymer broken down to the nano-size range (1 nm = 10-9 m). The major attraction of nanocellulose is its high mechanical strength (Tensile strength = 1 to 10 GPa; Young’s modulus = 100 – 130 GPa), more surface area to volume ratio (50 – 200 m2/g), bio-degradability, and novel rheological (shear-thinning) and optical properties. Cotton, bacterial cellulose, agro-biomass, and woody biomass are the major raw materials for the production of nanocellulose. Depending on the dimensions, nanocellulose is classified as Nano Crystalline Cellulose (NCC, aspect ratio < 100) and Nano Fibrillated Cellulose (NFC, aspect ratio > 100). The intrinsic architecture (crystalline structure with hydrogen bonding) of cellulose makes it highly energy-demanding for conversion into nanocellulose. It has proven applications as (a) reinforcing agents in biocomposts, (b) additives in high-end papers & paints, (c) scratch-resistant coating additives, (d) transparent display for electronics, and (e) as carriers in drug delivery systems.