Nano-Cellulose : Research Potential
in this article, Amir illustrates nano-cellulose recovery process and applications upon promising research potential
Cellulose is primary building block for plant cell walls that provides plants with extraordinary strength as such cell walls are composed of micro-fibrils that contain linear chains of nano-cellulose arranged in orthogonal layers while micro-fibrils are held togather using an organic polymer called lignin besides hemicellulose. Thus, wood is composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin.
Presently, micro-fibrils and nano-cellulose are considered alternatives to specific petrochemcial-based products in polymer additives, paints, and coatings especially barrier coatings in food packaging by preserving from oxygen, oil, and water vapor. Production is based on extraction from wood pulp residues as micro-fibrils are further processed into nano-cellulose through sulfuric acid hydrolysis illustrated in this video. Although deionized water is typical medium for dispersion, solvents including dimethyl sulfoxide, dimethylformamide and ethylene glycol are also usable in separation.
Recently, new production method based on excessive ball-milling followed by centrifugation is used to prepare nano-cellulose with no use of harsh chemicals or solvents. However, yield is approx. 20% as more development is required. In addition, price of product produced via sulfuric acid hydrolysis is affected by upstream wood pulp besides sulfuric acid, caustic soda, and organic solvents. On the other hand, the new method -if further developed- will enhance market presence as sustainable alternative.
According to Chemiprobe, Valentis is leading the market for micro-fibrils and nano-cellulose. While in the middle-east, the only producer is Melodea, an israeli research-based company affiliated by brazilian packaging paper producer and swedish wood pulp producer.
Generally, micro-fibrils and nano-cellulose market is research-based as finding niche applications through research is essential for business development through multiple sub-markets including defence, batteries, electronics, filters, and industrial operations, as listed below.
Body Armor : crystal structure of nano-cellulose is based on packed array of needle-like crystals which are incredibly tough with strength values higher than stainless steel. therefore, nano-cellulose can be utilized for futuristic body armor development
Flexible Batteries : separators inside batteries are made up from thick stiff material that cannot be used for bendable applications. therefore, flexible thin nano-cellulose combined with graphene can be utilized for flexible batteries
Flexible Screens : nano-cellulose is bendable, transparent, light high strength material. therefore, it can utilized instead of plastic or glassfor bendable screens
Filters : nano-cellulose can be used to filter liquids such as water desalination, trapping hazardous chemicals in cigarette, and filtering blood during transfusion.
Absorbent Aerogels : upon mixining nano-cellulose with aerogel foam, an innovative porous adsorbent material can be utilized for wound-dressing and hygenic diapers
Valentis is an international company specialized in nutraceuticals and nano-technologies headquartered and registered in Lithiuania