Less than one week after a five ton/day cellulose filament demonstration plant started-up in Quebec, two forest products companies have announced a joint venture to develop applications for this new biomaterial.
Resolute Forest Products and Mercer International have formed Performance BioFilaments Inc. to commercialize uses for cellulose filaments in markets other than pulp and paper.
“The significance of this new biomaterial, derived from wood fibre, is tremendous from both an environmental perspective and the range of possible applications. It holds the potential to make a variety of products stronger, lighter, more flexible and more durable, while leveraging a sustainable and renewable resource,” said Gurminder Minhas, managing director of Performance BioFilaments. “I can foresee lighter-weight, more fuel efficient vehicles, stronger more flexible building materials, and advanced composite materials in the realm of possible applications.”
Performance BioFilaments’ cellulose filaments are made from wood pulp, processed using a proprietary technology licensed from FPInnovations Inc. The resulting cellulose filaments have exceptional strength and purity, with an extraordinarily high aspect ratio that is unique when compared to all other high-value, cellulose-based biomaterials.
Initially, Performance BioFilaments will use material produced at the demonstration plant operated by FPInnovations and Kruger in Trois-Rivières, Que.
As a member company of FPInnovations, Performance BioFilaments has access to all current and future cellulose filaments research, including production processes and applications, as well as the process technology, findings and production quantities being advanced at the Trois-Rivières mill. Based on technology developed by FPInnovations, this plant will supply sufficient quantities of cellulose filaments to enable a significant research and development effort into new applications while providing commercial quantities for sale to the Canadian pulp, paper and bioproducts members of FPInnovations.
“Performance BioFilaments is looking to identify joint development partners for novel product applications of cellulose filaments, whereby we can together leverage FPInnovations foundational research and our own proprietary work to create new and exciting products,” said Minhas.
He told Pulp & Paper Canada that the new joint venture really has two goals. The first is to develop commercial applications for cellulose filaments. Once some markets for the product are secured, Performance BioFilaments will assess possibilities for manufacturing the material, potentially at sites owned by Mercer or Resolute Forest Products.
Mercer International Inc. is the world’s largest producer of NBSK market pulp and has modern, large-scale pulp mills in both Germany and Canada.
Resolute Forest Products produces a diverse range of products, including newsprint, specialty papers, market pulp and wood products. The Company owns or operates nearly 40 pulp and paper mills and wood products facilities in the United States, Canada and South Korea, and power generation assets in Canada.
“Today's launch highlights our ongoing effort to drive innovation in the forest products industry," said Richard Garneau, president and CEO of Resolute. “Resolute will provide funding and expertise to Performance BioFilaments, supporting the venture's research and development capabilities that aim to bring sustainable products to a broad spectrum of industries."
Minhas says the strength of cellulose filaments can be compared to that of synthetic reinforcement fibers made from non-renewable petroleum inputs. “The difference is that cellulose filaments are entirely renewable, with a very low carbon footprint.”
Cellulose filaments are obtained by peeling the filaments from wood fibres using a mechanical process that uses no chemicals or enzymes. They can be used to improve traditional pulp and paper products and incorporated into new applications outside of the forest sector.