Industry transformation

Upcoming conference to focus on applications of cellulose nanomaterials
Colleen Walker, Ph.D., TAPPI
March 28, 2017
By Colleen Walker, Ph.D., TAPPI
Mar. 28, 2017 - Cellulose nanomaterials will contribute to everyday life is the theme for TAPPI’s 2017 International Conference on Nanotechnology for Renewable Nanomaterials, to be held June 5-8 in Montreal, Que. TAPPI Nano 2017 brings together the scientists and product developers that are incorporating these materials into applications that touch all of our lives — in products such as cement, drug delivery vehicles, water filters, flexible electronics, battery separators and more.

The wide interest in cellulose nanomaterials can be attributed to their unique properties, and the fact that they are a renewable resource, an attractive quality for companies looking for alternatives to fossil-fuel based polymers. As well, these materials are “new,” which offer many companies an advantage to create new products. While the paper industry has been leveraging the strength of cellulose nanomaterials in paper fibers for decades, these versatile materials boast unique properties that appeal to nearly every industry.

While many products and applications that use cellulose nanomaterials are kept confidential, a steady rise in patents and technical papers are a testament to the growing interest in these materials. At Nano 2017, producers of cellulose nanomaterials will share their application studies and new product grades. Here is an overview of some of the presentations that will be given at the event.

Perspectives from end-users
Returning to Canada for the fourth time, Nano 2017 will present its first-ever end-user panel. Representatives from Cabot, Ford Motor Company, Schlumberger and L’Oréal are scheduled to attend.

“We wanted to incorporate into the conference the perspective of the end-user,” notes Hamdy Khalil, senior global director for advanced technologies and innovation at Woodbridge Foam Corporation in Ontario, who organized and will moderate the panel. “We invited several global companies that are using cellulose nanomaterials to comment on their interest in the material, and potential applications. We also asked these representatives to share how they expected their business segments to respond to these new materials.”

Show organizers say this session is expected to be of wide interest, as scientists and producers alike will learn about the requirements and issues the ultimate end-user will have when producing commercial products with cellulose nanomaterials.

Industrial applications testing
Researchers have been studying the use of cellulose nanomaterials in various applications in their labs, and we are seeing more and more application testing, with pilot testing. One of the leading areas is the use of cellulose nanomaterials in drilling fluids.

Other unique applications include developing inexpensive and simple small-scale water purification systems using nanoparticle-impregnated paper sheets. Researchers from Åbo Akademi in Turku, Finland, will share results on producing antimicrobial sheets from liquid flame spray nanoparticle deposition on paper and board. Michigan Technological University will share its work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions through lightweighting by replacing glass fibers with cellulose nanofibrils for reinforment of polypropylene used in automobiles.

Over the past few years, there has been growing interest in using cellulose nanomaterials in a variety of electronic devices. On the program for TAPPI Nano 2017 are presentations on the use of cellulose nanomaterials in inks for printed electronics on paper substrates, creating advanced battery separator membranes, and coating electrically conductive fabrics with nanocellulose hydrogels to improve durability.

Paper and packaging applications
Applications in paper and board production and product development are of keen interest to the forest products industries, as they can help paper and board makers reduce product costs, improve performance, and even incorporate new functionality.

At Nano 2017, several sessions are devoted specifically to advances in paper and packaging applications. For several years, scientists globally have reported that cellulose nanomaterials can be used in papermaking to improve paper properties and enhance barrier properties, and add functionality for smart packaging. While challenges still exist in the preparation and use of these materials, companies and scientists are making headway.

At Nano 2017, representatives from Turner Falls Paper and GL&V will share their experiences producing and using microfibrillated cellulose in several commercial paper grades. MoRe Research will share its advances in developing a scalable production method to produce nanopapers and nanocomposite films using both a semiautomatic sheet former and a pilot web former. Researchers from the Munich University of Applied Sciences in Germany will report on their new two-step method for coating base papers with microfibrillated cellulose to improve oil and grease barrier properties.

Producers of cellulose nanomaterials
Nano 2017 organizers say the event will bring together the “most innovative” producers of cellulose nanomaterials, giving attendees “unparalleled access” to the latest technology news and developments, including the following:

• CelluForce is a commercial producer of cellulose nanocrystals from trees. CelluForce CEO Sebastien Corbeil will deliver the opening keynote on June 5. Corbeil will share key learnings in CelluForce’s nanocellulose commercialization journey, along with an overview of where the company is heading.

• American Process is a technology developer for the commercial production of chemicals, fuels, and advanced materials from biomass. API will provide an update on its progress towards nanocellulose commercialization including global partnerships and joint development agreements for end-use applications.

• Betulium produces cellulose nanomaterials from agricultural waste. At TAPPI Nano 2017, Betulium will present a study comparing vegetable-based cellulose nanofibers obtained from wood. For the several products in each category, rheological characterization, fibril dimensions, degree of substitution and turbidity have been measured. This information, it explains, should help researchers and product developers to select the most suitable grade for their applications.

• Blue Goose Biorefineries (BGB) is a startup company that is developing technology to produce cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) and microcrystalline cellulose (MCC). In 2014, it set up a pilot-scale facility in Saskatoon, Sask., and started selling research quantities of products. Blue Goose Biorefineries will report on its newest breakthrough product which boasts several improvements over its other products, including crystal-size uniformity, particle self-assembly behaviour forming chiral nematic structures, and increased surface carboxyl content. BGB explains the main process improvements offer a 30-time reduction in reaction time and a simpler, easier-to-control reaction.

• FiberLean Technologies, a producer of micro-fibrillated cellulose, will give two presentations at Nano 2017. The first will be an update on its current product for coating, applied at the wet-end of the paper machine, to improve printability onto corrugated boxes. Its second presentation will introduce its next-generation product, which promises improved performance as a reinforcement of paper and board, as well as viscosification in paint and oilfield applications.

• Melodea extracts CNC from pulp to be functionalized and used in foams, papers, glues and paints. Melodea will share how it is increasing production in Israel in response to market demands. In addition, Melodea is working with Holmen, MoRe Research and S.P. Sweden to launch a pilot plant in Sweden, to be available for use by companies, universities, and research institutions.

• Nippon Paper has previously announced plans to begin operations at two large-scale production facilities in Japan for its Cellenpia cellulose nanofibers. Nippon’s presentation will explain that for TEMPO-CNF and CM-CNF, Nippon Paper collaborates on application developments with its potential customers to develop the best CNF for each application and takes advantage of CMC production technology for food and cosmetic applications.

Worker and product safety
With the emerging market for cellulose nanomaterials, the safety of the employees who produce and use these materials, as well as the products that are made from them, is of paramount importance. Nano 2017, as in past years, will feature several presentations on the advancements and gaps in safety.

Vireo Advisors will give several presentations, one providing an overview on the status of environmental health and safety research on bio-based nanomaterials. It will present some of the advances in identifying nanomaterial hazards and assessing occupational exposures, and the development of methods to manage exposure. FPInnovations will also share recent work on characterizing several cellulose monocrystalline samples for nanoparticle exposure when handling dried powders.

Perspectives from Canadian leaders
The event will feature two lunch keynotes from prominent Canadian organizations. Trevor Stuthridge, executive vice-president of FPInnovations, is the lunch speaker on June 6, while John Kozij, director of general policy, economics and industry for the Canadian Forest Service, will take the stage during lunch on June 8.

“This is an exciting time for the forest industry and Canada and we are delighted to host the TAPPI Nano conference in 2017,” says Emily Cranston, an associate professor in Chemical Engineering at McMaster University and conference co-chair. She is working with professors Derek Gray (McGill University), Tom Lindstrom (Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, and Innventia) and Jean Bouchard (FPInnovations) to plan the event.

“Canada has been a true pioneer in many innovative aspects of cellulose nanomaterial research and industrial production — to see just how far this has progressed over the past decade is exhilarating. The quality of the technical abstracts and the range of the industries, applications, and countries that will be represented at the conference has made our work as conference organizers easy.”

International nanotechnology division
TAPPI launched its nanotechnology division back in 2011, and has seen rapid growth since that time. Division chair Robert Moon, USDA Forest Products Lab, and Cranston, vice-chair, have led the division growth over the last three years.

Last fall, the Nano Division Research Committee launched nine different subcommittees on application areas, characterization, functionalization and environmental, health and safety. The Producers Committee, with membership limited to producers of cellulose nanomaterials, has been active for about two years, and offers a forum for companies to share industry-wide research needs and other activities needed to support commercialization. The division says it is most excited about its new Student Committee, dedicated to connecting students from around the globe to support student research and career growth. For more information about the division, visit www.tappinano.org and @TAPPINanoStdnts.

For more information on TAPPI Nano 2017, please visit conference.tappinano.org.

Colleen Walker, Ph.D., is technical director at TAPPI. She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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