World’s first pilot unit for producing nanocellulose to be built in Stockholm
Saturday, May 29, 2010 Nanomaterials
The world’s first pilot plant for making it possible to work with nanocellulose on a large scale is currently under construction in Stockholm. With this major venture, Innventia, a research company, is taking a decisive step towards the industrialisation of its energy efficient production process for the new super material.
Nanocellulose is a material that is extracted from wood fibres. It has exceptional strength properties, being more or less as strong as Kevlar, a light weight material. However, in contrast to Kevlar and other materials based on fossil fuels, nanocellulose is completely renewable.
“For a long time, there’s been a great deal of interest from industry in utilising nanocellulose as a strengthening component in other materials, such as paper, composites and plastics,” relates Mikael Ankerfors, a Research Manager at Innventia. “We can also create new, more effective, environmentally compatible and renewable barrier films for packages used for foodstuffs.”
Nanocellulose, a super material, is going to have many areas of use in the future. For example, it can be used to make membranes and other reserve parts for the human body. It can also be used as a provider of viscosity in foodstuffs; in other words, it is able to replace carbohydrates and other additives in foodstuffs, which are known as low calorie products.
“Nanocellulose will be something revolutionary for the foodstuff industry too,” continues Mikael.
For the first time, nanocellulose will be able to be produced on a large scale, with the process being economically efficient. Previously, the homogenising stage in the process was much too demanding, when it comes to energy. Due to the process developments carried out by Innventia, the energy consumption has been reduced by a total of 98%.
Mikael explains, “This is equivalent to a saving of 29,000 kWh per tonne. To give a comparison, consider that the heating of a normal sized house takes approximately 18,000 kWh per year. For a full-sized mill that furnishes a paper mill with nanocellulose, this means a saving in energy that would be equivalent to 8,000 houses a year.”
Innventia is making a major investment in this technology by constructing the first pilot plant in the world for producing on a larger scale.
“This is a natural step in the investment we’re making in nanocellulose. In order to develop applications, such as paper and composite materials, the raw material produced in a lab is not sufficient. As the only company in the world, we’re extremely proud to be able to offer industry real opportunities to participate in this field, which is so important for the future,” concludes Mikael.