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Applications of Natural Polymer Nanocomposites

Natural polymers, such as gelatin, cellulose, alginate, chitin, starch, rubber, and fibrin, are used to develop green nanocomposites. Their use also expands to applications like biosensors, coatings, electronic devices, adhesives, and optical circuits. This article focuses on the applications of different types of natural polymer nanocomposites.

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Natural polymers are often preferred over synthetic polymers due to their non-toxic nature, chemical inertness, and biodegradability. Coupling natural polymers with inorganic nanoparticles fillers helps to improve particular features related to magnetic, electrical conductivity, and antimicrobial activity. Applications of different types of natural polymers nanocomposites are discussed below.

Metal-Cellulose Nanocomposites Cellulose is a natural polymer composed of a linear chain of β [1 → 4] attached D-glucose units.

Silver-cellulose nanocomposites, which exhibit strong antimicrobial and catalytic activities, can be synthesized utilizing chemical reduction methodologies.

Gold-cellulose nanocomposites have been applied for immobilizing enzymes, such as glucose oxidase and horseradish peroxidase.

These metal-cellulose nanocomposites exhibit superior biocompatibility, conductivity, and large surface area and are used as biosensors to identify various biomolecules, including glucose. 

Metal-Alginate Nanocomposites Alginate is a polysaccharide composed of β-mannuronic acid and αguluronic acid. It is extracted from brown algae, such as Laminaria saccharina and Laminaria digitate. Sodium alginates and calcium alginates are used in wound dressings as they can maintain moisture, stop the bleeding, and relieve pain.

Incorporating silver nanoparticles with alginates has provided an added antimicrobial property for wound dressing.

Notably, silver nanoparticles are effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Furthermore, this nanocomposite is also used for disinfecting drinking water in water treatment plants, where it is packed into the column containing water with bacteria. Alginate coupled with chitosan and gelatin, along with metallic nanoparticles, are suitable for controlled delivery of drugs. 

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.