Green Fabrication of Bio-based Aerogels from Coconut Coir for Heat Insulation and Oil Removal

Each year, the global annual production of coconut fibre (CF) is around 350×103 t, while they are utilized for fine art, fertilization, and animal feed. However, there have not seen many engineering applications to utilize these materials. The coir with high cellulose content of over 40 % has potential for high-value engineering applications like fabricating cellulose-based aerogels. Recently, the cellulose aerogel from CF was formed using a sol-gel method in an NaOH/Urea solution, with an anticipated completion time of 7 d due to the time required for gelation and solvent exchange, which might take up to 4 d. This demonstrates that the present approach is subject to several time limitations. To improve this, for the first time, a novel fabrication of aerogels from the CF with chemical pre-treatment in advance has been successfully developed by using polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and xanthan gum (XTG) as biodegradable binders. The treated CFs are dispersed homogeneously into a PVA/XTG solution, followed by freeze-drying to remove water, leaving behind a highly porous called CF aerogel. The influences of CF content on CF aerogels' physical and mechanical characteristics, as well as oil adsorption and thermal conductivity, have all been thoroughly investigated. For oil removal, the fabricated CF aerogels are surface-modified with methyltrimethoxysilane (MTMS) to enhance their hydrophobicity. This method required 2 times less time and used fewer chemicals while retaining the same oil adsorption capabilities of up to 20 g/g as previous CF aerogel and demonstrating additional good insulation of 0.040 W/(m·K). Thus, this study provides a new novel approach to synthesize an oil-absorbing and insulating CF aerogel.

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