The solution lies in chemical modification
Nanocellulose isolated from wood pulp is initially in the form of a water-based suspension. If the material dries out the cellulose fibers stick together forming rough clumps and it loses its outstanding mechanical properties. For this reason the Empa researchers sought to develop a process which allowed them to dry nanocellulose without it clumping and becoming rough. To achieve this, the cellulose was treated using a technique which is easily implemented on a large scale and is also completely harmless, even being suitable for applications in the food industry. The method prevents the cellulose fibrils from forming clumps and sticking together.
The results are worth looking at: after being re-dispersed in water the dried nanocellulose powder boasts the same outstanding properties as undried, unmodified cellulose. This makes the new product an attractive alternative to conventional cellulose suspensions for the synthesis of bio-nanocomposite materials. Suspensions currently in use consists of over 90% water which causes the transport costs to explode and increases the danger of degradation by bacteria or fungi. In addition aquatic cellulose suspensions are laborious to work with since usually in the course of chemical processing solvents must be exchanged.
Empa Research Prize 2011 goes to Christian Eyholzer
The work on developing the new manufacturing process and identifying applications for nanocellulose i
|Contact: Dr. Tanja Zimmermann|
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA)