Press release

Wilhelm Klauditz Fellow Dr. Hatem Abushammala develops high-value bio-based materials using nanocellulose

Braunschweig / February 19, 2020

Dr. Hatem Abushammala is the fourth Wilhelm Klauditz Fellow of the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut WKI. From August 2017 until March 2020, the materials scientist is conducting his research project at the Fraunhofer WKI in Braunschweig on the preparation of electrically conductive nanoparticles using renewable materials. In addition to his research as a Fellow, he is leading an international research project.

© Fraunhofer WKI | Manuela Lingnau
Dr. Hatem Abushammala researching cellulose nanocrystals in one of the laboratories of the Fraunhofer WKI.
© Hatem Abushammala
Research idea and potential of conductive nanocellulose.

With his research project, Dr. Abushammala demonstrates that renewable raw materials can be utilized instead of petroleum-based resources for developing high-value functional materials for many areas of interest. At the Fraunhofer WKI, he is pursuing the idea of developing an innovative electrically conductive shell around nanocellulose particles to render them conductive. Such conductive nanocellulose would have great potential for a variety of applications, including sensing and electronics. There, nanocellulose could help in reducing the massive amounts of non-degradable electronic waste. In addition to its high mechanical flexibility and versatility, the conductive nanocellulose is biocompatible and could therefore be used in the medical field in sensory biochips and in drug-delivery systems.

Dr. Abushammala's research focuses on cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs), rod-shaped nanoparticles that can be extracted from cellulose and lignocelluloses using several methods. CNCs have many interesting properties including high mechanical strength, large surface area, possibility to functionalize, and ability to form liquid crystalline structures. However, CNCs are electrically non-conductive, limiting their potential in certain applications. Dr. Abushammala's research aims at engineering the surface of CNCs in such a way that each CNC acts as an individual conductive rod, like a nanowire. To achieve this goal, specific molecules were chemically bonded to the surface of CNCs, which were then activated and bonded to one another. In this way, Dr. Abushammala was able to build up a conductive shell around the CNCs. Dr. Abushammala optimized the process parameters in order to ensure the continuity of the conductive shell and thereby the free mobility of electrons throughout the CNC surface.

Dr. Abushammala started as Wilhelm Klauditz Fellow at the Fraunhofer WKI in 2017. Prior to that, he worked at the Chair of Forest Biomaterials at the University of Freiburg as a postdoctoral research associate and lecturer, where he also completed his doctorate in 2015. His doctoral thesis addressed the development of novel ionic liquid-mediated technologies for the extraction of nanocellulose directly from wood. From 2009 to 2011, he successfully completed his master degree in materials science and engineering at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Dr. Abushammala has received numerous awards for his research, including the Leo-Schörghuber Prize 2015, the Gold Medal 2016 from the International Academy of Wood Science, the Hansjürg-Steinlin Prize 2016 and the Ecology Prize of the Sigrid and Viktor Dulger Foundation in 2017.

During his time at the Fraunhofer WKI, Dr. Abushammala’s research work has led to a patent application and seven research publications (five already published, two under review).

  1. On the Para/Ortho Reactivity of Isocyanate Groups during the Carbamation of Cellulose Nanocrystals Using 2,4-Toluene Diisocyanate
    Polymers 2019, 11(7), 1164
  2. Nano-Brushes of Alcohols Grafted onto Cellulose Nanocrystals for Reinforcing Poly(Butylene Succinate): Impact of Alcohol Chain Length on Interfacial Adhesion
    Polymers 2020, 12(1), 95
  3. A Review of the Surface Modification of Cellulose and Nanocellulose Using Aliphatic and Aromatic Mono- and Di-Isocyanates
    Molecules 2019, 24(15), 2782
  4. A Simple Method for the Quantification of Free Isocyanates on the Surface of Cellulose Nanocrystals upon Carbamation using Toluene Diisocyanate
    Surfaces 2019, 2(2), 444-454
  5. A Review on the Partial and Complete Dissolution and Fractionation of Wood and Lignocelluloses Using Imidazolium Ionic Liquids
    Polymers 2020, 12(1), 195

The Wilhelm Klauditz Fellowship is a scholarship in the field of applied wood research and is announced annually. The Fraunhofer WKI thereby supports eminent scientists working on projects for the development of innovative natural materials.