AbstractThe production of functionalized polymers from biomass is of great interest. Cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) isolated from lignocellulose have great potential in novel functional materials. In the present study, mild enzymatic treatment followed by high pressure microfluidization of a bleached softwood kraft pulp led to the release of individualized CNFs. Disk milling and high pressure microfluidization resulted in entangled networks of CNFs. CNFs from mild enzyme pretreatments were 8 to 12 nm in diameter and 200 to 400 nm in length, while CNFs from pure mechanical pretreatment were an entangled network of nanofibrils with a diameter of 10 to 20 nm. Films prepared from the resulting CNFs were flexible and semitransparent, and they exhibited high specific tensile stress and modulus. The specific tensile stress and modulus were increased by 3- to 5-fold and 5- to 11-fold, respectively. The specific tensile modulus of the CNFs films from mild enzyme treatments followed by microfluidization was approximately 15 to 16 MN·m/kg, while that of CNFs from pure mechanical fibrillation with or without microfluidization was 10 MN·m/kg and 14 MN·m/kg, respectively. The specific tensile strength of the CNFs films from mild enzyme treatment was slightly lower (72 to 98 kN·m/kg) than that of the CNFs films from pure mechanical fibrillation.