Strong, stretchable and renewable, and now also economical to produce. It’s the material of the future: nanocellulose. After many years’ work, it’s time for full-scale testing, as Innventia and BillerudKorsnäs build a mobile container factory.
Nanocellulose is an umbrella term for various types of finely-divided cellulose. It is made from wood fibres, which are delaminated so that the fibres have a nano-format width and micro-format length. That’s why it’s often called microfibrillated cellulose (MFC) or nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC).
What makes nanocellulose so special is that it is exceptionally strong. Because the fibres are finely divided, you can construct a very strong material. A material, for example, that can be used as a strengthening agent in paper – with huge potential.
This means the material has a wide range of applications, both improved existing uses and brand new ones. Above all, nanocellulose can be used in paper and cardboard, for packaging where plastic is currently used. Other applications include surface gluing, surface coating and – outside the paper industry – as a thickening agent and constituent in cosmetics and food!
Nanocellulose also has very interesting barrier properties. Among other things, nanocellulose films have very low oxygen permeability, something that makes them suitable for food packaging. It also, for instance, protects against grease. As we previously explained, such requirements will increase in the society of the future.
In that case, why hasn‘t nanocellulose been used earlier? The fact is that, although it was discovered in the 1980s, the manufacturing process has been too energy-consuming until now.Thanks to various pretreatment methods, developed at FEX and elsewhere, it is now possible to reduce the energy consumption significantly. That means that nanocellulose is now ready for testing in full-scale paper manufacturing.
Innventia and BillerudKorsnäs are currently in the process of developing a mobile container factory. This will be done in a project financed by Vinnova and ourselves. Together, we will produce the mobile demonstration factory, which will be in container form.
“With a mobile facility we can assess the potential in full scale,” explains Anna Wiberg, project manager and responsible for the nanocellulose area at Innventia. This portability means we can now reach industries that do not have their own testing facilities.
What is the timetable for the mobile container factory?
“At the moment we are involved in a procurement process for construction of the factory,” explains Anna.
"Construction will start in the summer and various tests are expected to take place next year. Towards the end of September 2016, we expect the container factory to be up and running and being tested in the paper industry.”
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