Nanocellulose for automotives, wood and paper!?
Here comes another very interesting development based on natural fibres: cellulose fibres. The exceptional properties of these fibres are based on biological processes that have not previously existed in this form. The cellulose fibres are almost exclusively of vegetable origin. An alternative bio-based manufacturing concept uses microbes to transform glucose into cellulose as part of a fermentation process. This results in nano-scale fibre material with properties that are clearly different from those of its vegetable origin. Nanocellulose fibres have a diameter of less than 100 nanometres and a length of a few micrometres. The individual fibres are very strong relative to their mass and crosslink to form strong webs. As a result they have a very large surface area which makes them extremely reactive.
Nanocellulose uses inorganic, organic and polymer materials to form physicochemical compounds. This makes it extremely interesting for the automotive industry as a reinforcement material for the manufacture of high strength polymer compounds with similar strength properties to those of metallic components. Nanocellulose can also be used to improve the mechanical quality of wood and cardboard materials. As nano-porous bio-foams they can replace conventional insulation materials. When pressed to form a dense paper a nano-fibre network incorporating dispersed clay particles can be used in composite packaging as a barrier layer for oxygen or water vapour. It replaces the aluminium that is presently used.
Nanocellulose is also interesting as a membrane and filter material in medical technology.
“Bacterially synthesised nanocellulose is a high performance high-tech bio-polymer with unique material properties whose structure and form can be controlled during the process of biosynthesis enabling it to be used for innovative and forward-looking solutions for medical applications , e.g. as a modern wound dressing,” explains Dr. Dana Kralisch from JeNaCell GmbH. At the Institute of Technical Chemistry and Environmental Chemistry of the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena with the cooperation of partners EPC Engineering Consulting GmbH and Polymet e.V. it has been possible for the first time to produce nanocellulose under constant process conditions on a small scale pilot line. JeNaCell GmbH is spinning this off into larger scale production. A process for manufacturing dried nanocellulose powder was developed at the EMPA, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology.
Background picture: Source – Polymet e.V.