This research work aims to investigate the effects of types and concentration of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) prepared from bacterial cellulose (BC) and nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) on structure properties of polyurethane (PU) composites. Feasibility of applying the polymer composite for encapsulation of dye sensitized solar cells was of interest. Both CNCs were pretreated via esterification before mixing with the polyurethane by a solution process. Tensile strength and thermal stability of the PU/esterified CNCs were found to be superior to those of the systems reinforced with untreated CNCs. With the introduction of both untreated and esterified CNCs, water vapor transmission rates through the PU composite films were lowered while their visible light transmittance values were maintained to be above 80%. Also, better efficiency and stability of the solar cell were obtained when the PU was reinforced with CNCs, indicating its longer lifetime usage. The most suitable cell, described in terms of durability, was obtained when the PU was mixed with 2 wt % of esterified CNCs obtained from BC. Overall, this study shows that the surface modification of the CNCs is an important factor, affecting the reinforcing efficacy.

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© 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2017134, 45010.