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Uthpala Garusinghe

PhD (2017)
B. Eng (Chemical) 

Project Title
Novel nanocellulose nanoparticle composites

A/Prof. Warren Batchelor and Professor Gil Garnier

Project Description
Cellulose nanofibres are exciting low-cost renewable new nanomaterials. Cellulose nanofibre sheets have exciting future prospects as barriers. The most important barrier properties of cellulose nanofibre sheets are water vapour permeability (WVP) and oxygen permeability (OP). Due to smaller diameter and small pore size, cellulose nanofibre sheets have low OP, however the WVP is high due to hydrophilic nature of cellulose. Many commercially available packaging materials are associated with wax, aluminium and plastic materials, which has low WVP, but such materials are not recyclable and biodegradable. Therefore, keeping low OP while reducing WVP is a key challenge to the utilisation of cellulose nanofibres as recyclable barrier material today. One way of addressing this issue is to do surface modifications to increase the hydrophobicity of cellulose nanofibres by coating nanofibres with suitable low WVP materials. Another way to address this issue is to increase the tortuosity of the nanofibre sheet thereby water vapours find it difficult to travel across the membrane. This project explores the latter by preparing nanocellulose hybrids.

Composites were prepared through filtration process by addition of nanocellulose and layered silicates (nanoclays). The nanoclay composition varied between 5-70wt%. The effect of fibre fibrillation on the WVP of the sheet and the effect of nanoclay addition on WVP of the composite sheet were determined. Effect of nanoclay addition on strength and porosity of the composite was determined as well. The WVP values obtained for composites showed an improved results when compared with the performance of other cellulose sheets reported in literature. Therefore, this work presents a new recyclable packaging material with excellent OP and WVP.

Courses and Conferences


Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering Research, Monash University
Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical Engineering) - First Class Honors, Monash University2013

Employment Experience 

Monash University

Teaching Associate

- Tutor for the following units: "Cleaner, safer, smarter"; Material and Energy Balance

- Lab demonstrator for the following units: 

  • Adiabatic Batch Reactor experiment (Chemistry and Chemical Thermodynamics).
  • Flow control experiment (Process Control).
  • Kraft/Sulphate Pulping experiment (Masters Course).   

March 2014 - 2017


Industrial Trainee

- Gained experience in petroleum field work and validation of process and instrumentation diagrams

Dec 2012 - Feb 2013

Research Interests