Materials Engineering Department

Degree Name

BS in Materials Engineering




Trevor Harding


Inspired by the structure and composition of cactus spines found in nature, arabinan-cellulose nanocomposites were fabricated into thin films and tested for mechanical stiffness. The composites consisted of varying amounts of nanocrystalline cellulose reinforcement suspended in an arabinan matrix. Both materials are polysaccharides and are known to be biodegradable and food safe. The thin film samples were tensile tested using a dynamic mechanical analysis machine both as-cast and after a heat-treatment. The heat treatment of the arabinan itself resulted in an order of magnitude increase in stiffness, while the cellulose reinforced composites increased roughly six fold. The arabinan-50 wt% cellulose heat-treated sample had a mean stiffness of 6.09 GPa. These results are promising because early trials have already surpassed the stiffness of PET, a common packaging material and are approaching future goals of matching the mechanical properties of fiberglass and eventually dry native cactus spines.