Team Nature, Gemstone Program
As part of the Gemstone Honors Program, Team Nature has explored the use of cellulose nanopaper (CNP) as a potential alternative to plastics in electronic applications, such as solar cells and smartphone touchscreens. While CNP has comparable properties to plastics, it has shown promise as an alternative as cellulose is highly sustainable (naturally abundant, biodegradable, versatile, and inexpensive). Under the guidance of Dr. Liangbing Hu of the University of Maryland Energy Research Center, Team Nature conducted several surface processing experiments, such as altering the source of cellulose, performing atomic layer deposition (ALD), conducting surface esterification reactions, and applying transparent, conductive coatings. After these treatments, Team NATURE characterized the material properties of the CNP, including strength, flexibility, water resistance, conductivity, surface smoothness, and transparency. The team found that the treatments improved the functionality of the CNP without dramatically altering its high transparency and flexibility, making it a strong candidate for use in flexible electronic systems.