USDA Forest Products Laboratory Nanocellulose Facility Grand Opening

The Forest Products Laboratory Nanocellulose Plant Ribbon Cutting CeremonyOn July 25th, 2012, the USDA’s Forest Products Laboratory held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a state-of-the-art nanocellulose pilot plant in Madison, Wisconsin. USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman was the keynote speaker at the opening, and several industry leaders (including the PDC’s Director, Michael Bilodeau) delivered presentations on the commercialization of nanomaterials.

This advanced plant produces cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) and TEMPO-based cellulose nano-fibrils (CNF) for advanced process and product testing. Both materials are currently being tested in 100 gallon reactors reinforced with glass linings to contain the powerful acid and oxidation conditions necessary for the production of CNC and CNF, respectively.

Typically, bleached wood pulp is the starting material for CNC and CNF production. The resulting nano-crystals are approximately 5 nm in diameter and 150 nm long, and the fibrils are about 20 nm in diameter and up to 2 μ long. After extraction, both materials undergo extensive dilution in the membrane filtration system. CNC will be available for sale in an aqueous suspension or freeze dried into a white powder. CNF can be cast into a clear film or freeze dried into an aerogel or white powder. The substances’ unique structural properties enable them to strengthen a wide-range of materials such as films and fiber reinforced composites.

Once CNC and CNF are firmly established products and their production processes have been perfected, the pilot plant will be adapted to produce material at a larger scale. The 100 gallon reactors are planned to be replaced with 1,000 gallon reactors to demonstrate the process at pre-commercial scale.

To learn more about the pilot plant or the Forest Products Laboratory, visit FPL’s website.