Nasim Amiralian, Pratheep K Annamalai, Darren Martin*


The University of Queensland
Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


Cellulose nanofibres (CNF) are polysaccharide-based fibres with diameters ranging from 4 to 20 nm and lengths of up to several microns. At a molecular level, CNF consist of a linear chain of several hundreds to many thousands of β (1→ 4) linked D-glucose units packed into an oriented, semicrystalline fibril or fibre structure. Consistent with a hypothesis that extreme environments drive the evolution of plants with unusual material properties, in 2012 we discovered that Australian arid spinifex grass is a unique and low-cost source of flexible cellulose nanofibers of very high yield, aspect ratio, ductility and toughness1. We have clearly demonstrated that from Triodia pungens grass we can readily isolate nanofibres with an average width of below 20 nm after a mild pulping procedure followed by either a low mechanical energy treatment or a mild sulfuric acid hydrolysis2-4. A high content of residual hemicellulose and lignin in bleached and unbleached pulp results in superior cell wall deconstruction, and consequently, the production of longer and more flexible nanofibres. The remarkable traits of spinifex appear to trace back to the evolution of the Triodia genus and its adaptation to the extremely hot and dry conditions in semi-arid Australia, where spinifex forms the dominant vegetation over approximately 30% of the continent. This presentation will give an overview of the fundamental aspects of spinifex nanofibres’ morphology, structure, and properties.

Figure 1: Spinifex grassland (left), spinifex-derived cellulose nanofibres (right)


(1)           Martin, D. J.; Annamalai, P. K.; Amiralian, N.; WO20150741202015.

(2)           Amiralian, N.; Annamalai, P. K.; Memmott, P.; Taran, E.; Schmidt, S.; Martin, D. J. RSC Advances 2015, 5, 32124.

(3)           Amiralian, N.; Annamalai, P. K.; Memmott, P.; Martin, D. J. Cellulose 2015, 22, 2483.

(4)           Amiralian, N.; Annamalai, P. K.; Garvey, C. J.; Jiang, E.; Memmott, P.; Martin, D. J. Cellulose 2017.

Biographic Details

Name: Nasim Amiralian
Title: Dr
Affiliation, Country: The University of Queensland, Australia
Phone: +61 7 3346 3862       E-mail:
Research interests: Nanocomposites, Advanced materials, Natural polymers