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Forestry - Piloting cellulose nanofibrils

cellulose nanofibrils

The University of Maine’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute is building a pilot-scale plant for manufacturing cellulose nanofibrils (CNF), a wood-based reinforcing material that is increasingly of interest to researchers worldwide looking for super-strong materials that could replicate synthetic plastics.

The pilot plant, which is being funded by a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Forest Service, will be the only one of its kind in the nation, and will serve as a source of the material for those who want to explore the uses of CNF. Currently, researchers and industrial companies who want to buy the material purchase it from sources in Japan and Germany.

Last April, UMaine and the Forest Products Laboratory of the national Forest Service began a research collaboration on conversion of wood components into novel nanomaterials, incorporating an array of nanomaterials into forest products to increase their functionality, durability and end-use performance; and developing new generations of high-performance wood-based materials.

UMaine will be the sole supplier of CNF to researchers in a consortium of universities — Georgia Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, Oregon State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University and University of Tennessee.

Applications for the CNF material include automobile components, paint and coating additives, and water filters. Commercialization of cellulose nanofibrils and development of cellulose nanocomposites have been hampered by the lack of availability of CNF material in sufficient quantities to conduct commercially meaningful technology demonstrations.

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