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Enabling cellulose nanomaterial commercialization

Photo of FPL-2017-117FPL-2017-117Snapshot : Cellulose nanomaterials are a high-value product that can be made from low-value wood.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Houtman, Carl J.Rudie, Alan W.
Research Location : Madison, WI, Forest Products Laboratory
Research Station : Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1289


Demand for commercial-scale quantities of cellulose nanomaterials currently exceeds supply, and demand is expected to grow dramatically over the next decade. Building on successful production of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) at the pilot-scale, Forest Service researchers and their partners have published a technoeconomic analysis of a commercial-scale plant. In this study, the researchers conclude that there is a 95 percent probability that manufacturing cost will be less than $6 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) kg. This price is sufficiently low to generate significant interest on the part of potential users. Beyond the manufacturing cost estimates, the publication also identifies drying and acid recovery as two major risks to the business case. Many potential applications of CNCs cannot tolerate water, so developing drying technologies will facilitate commercialization. Unfortunately, cellulose nanocrystals form irreversible aggregates upon drying. With financial support from U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Inc.,, the researchers have initiated a collaboration with Insight Bioscience Innovations, LLC, to develop advanced drying technologies that do not irreversibly aggregate the CNCs. Large amounts of concentrated sulfuric acid is used during the production of CNCs. Recovering and reusing this acid is essential to a successful commercial operation. Again with the endowment’s financial support, the researchers have initiated a collaboration with Membrane Specialist LLC. Membrane separation of acid from sugars, formed as a byproduct, shows great promise as a route to acid recovery. Ongoing research, will provide the data to reduce the business risk presented by acid recovery.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities, Inc. Insight Bioscience Innovations, LLC Membrane Specialists LLC North Carolina State University