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FPInnovations collaborates with French researchers on nano-crystalline cellulose

Scientists in Canada and France are cooperating to develop new applications for nano-crystalline cellulose in preparation for industrial scale production of the cellulose-derived material.


November 16, 2010
By Pulp & Paper Canada

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Scientists in Canada and France are cooperating to develop new applications for nano-crystalline cellulose in preparation for industrial scale production of the cellulose-derived material.

Within the framework of the Samuel de Champlain Franco-Canadian program, researchers from the LGP2 laboratory located in Grenoble INP-Pagora, The International School of Paper, Print Media and Biomaterials, and from FPInnovations, a private Canadian research center, are uniting their efforts to study the compatibilization of nano-crystalline cellulose. 

As part of this collaboration, (subsidized by a France-Québec exchange program), several student and visiting researcher exchanges have taken place over these past two years. The latest exchange is that of Jean Bouchard, an FPInnovations researcher, who gave a much-appreciated lecture on the developments of the industrial project and the risks concerning health.

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In 2006, Paprican (now part of FPInnovations) developed a production pilot unit able to generate 1 kilogram of nano-crystalline cellulose per day. The mid-term objective is to produce NCC at an industrial scale of one ton per day in a pilot plant, in partnership with Domtar, at its Windsor, Que., pulp and paper mill.

Since its discovery in the 1950’s, nano-crystalline cellulose has aroused the curiosity of the scientific community.  It is extracted from cellulose fibers like those used in paper fabrication.  Its nanometric dimensions offer a very large distinctive surface and its intrinsic mechanical properties are comparable to steel fibers of similar size.  In addition, nano-crystalline cellulose is distinguishable by its crystal liquid behaviour in aqueous solution suspension, presenting phenomena of birefringence under polarized light.  When dried as film form, these suspensions are iridescent, a highly regarded property in security paper applications for example, since it is impossible to photocopy an iridescent element.

The mechanical properties (reinforcement) and optical properties (iridescence) of NCC suggest diverse potential applications of this renewable, biodegradable substance: security papers, cosmetic products, decorative elements, biodegradable plastics, barrier packaging.