Challenge area: Sustainable small particles technology

FineCell Sweden AB has developed a process to produce cellulose nanomaterial, or nanocellulose (NC), which is much simpler and quicker and uses substantially less energy and water compared to other commonly used techniques. Two core products they can offer are microcellulose powder (dry material) and nanocellulose gel (wet material).

They use an inexpensive and naturally abundant organic acid to chemically break down cellulose fibers/pulps into micro-sized particles through a water- and solvent-free reaction. The subsequent purification to separate the products from the unreacted acid can be done with either water or solvents in a single step, and the products are received as dry cellulose powders. Here, the gravimetric yield is usually 95%.

By mechanically disintegrating the powder in liquid media, Finecell are able to further break down the micro-sized particles into nano-sized particles. When the liquid medium is water, nanocellulose hydrogels are obtained as final products. The conversion rate from cellulose fibers (the raw material) to nanocellose is 90%, as calculated from the dry weight. Scaling up the process is the next step.