New Cellulose Nanomaterials Pilot Plant Keeps Up With Market Demand
In July 2012, the Forest Products Laboratory held a ribbon cutting ceremony to announce the startup of a new Forest Service-funded $1.7-million pilot plant. The pilot plant is now producing about 30 kilograms cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), or 5 kg of cellulose nanofibrils (CNF) per week. These materials are being supplied to three Government agencies and six partner universities to accelerate the development of advanced cellulose-reinforced composites, and printed, flexible electronic circuits and products.
Cellulose nanocrystals are rod-like particles of pure cellulose, about 5 nanometers (nm) in diameter and 150 to 200 nm long. With the strength of steel at one-sixth the weight, the crystals have applications in high-performance composites, replacing Kevlar and carbon fibers. Cellulose nanofibrils are string-like particles, 20 nm in diameter and up to 2 microns long. They form high-strength clear films that can be used in high-performance epoxy layup processes, barrier coatings, or because of the very low coefficient of thermal expansion backing for printed circuits.
The new pilot plant enables Forest Service scientists to continue to supply these materials to our partners, and make the materials available to dozens of new partner companies. Product applications are diverse, and include flexible solar panels, printed electronic circuits, auto body parts, military drones, light-weight armor, and ballistic glass—all of which are under consideration for revamping with this advanced material.
Forest Service Partners