Research Review June 2018: new technology is being created, and cellulose fibrils is participating

Ole Martin Kristiansen | July 17, 2018

Cellulose fibrils have been written and talked about for years. A substantial amount of reports have been written prospecting all sorts of application areas. Based on its functionalities, it seems to be a good rheology modifier, a good stabilizer and it is showing substantial strength enhancement. But is there any proof to the pudding and where do we find the latest developments? I have tried to gather a couple of relevant examples for you, which to me are fairly new developments. Dig into this week’s blog post to find out what they are!

Asics is taking the first step (literally speaking) – are running shoes becoming increasingly bio-based?

Cellulose fibrils (named in Japan as CNF, short for cellulose nanofibers) in running shoes. Yes, it is now a reality. Asics have launched their first shoes where cellulose fibrils are incorporated. They are using cellulose fibrils to strengthen their FlyteFoam Lyte, which is a thermoplastic polyamide (TPA). Their main goal, according to plasticstoday, is to improve durability as well as strength. The reports are stating that the durability of the Gel-Kayano 25 running shoe increased by 7% and the strength improved by an astonishing 20% (!).

Asics is also reporting that the newly developed shoe sole with cellulose fibrils gives a smoother ride for the runner, by providing a better cushioning effect. The cellulose fibrils used by Asics were provided by Seiko PMC, called Starcel, which is a product type where the cellulose fibrils are produced as composite materials based on polypropylene, polyethylene and other resins (source: plasticstoday).

Interesting stuff. Which one of the shoe producers will be next? Will we be able to buy bio-based running shoes in the near future? We also previously wrote about Aalto University in Finland, which has been researching cellulose fibrils as material for shoes.


Packaging – one of the major effects of mega trends

Research on packaging is increasing sharply. The digital age, and the steady increase in purchases on the internet, where the goods are shipped directly to your door or local post collection point, is making packaging an increasingly profitable area. One of the main challenges mentioned is to increase the sustainability of these products, enabling biodegradability and zero harm to the environment when disposed.

Bio-based raw materials are being pursued, and cellulose fibrils (in packaging the products they are often referred to as microfibrillated cellulose (MFC)), is described by GlobalData as one of the materials that will impact innovation in sustainable packaging. The main functionalities of MFC that are highlighted in these areas are the barrier properties towards oxygen and the strength from the fibers. Our guest writer, Michael Bilodeau, earlier described the effect that MFC had on old corrugated containers, where improved fiber coverage, reduced air porosity and improved surface smoothness were key findings. The company Stora Enso, in Finland, has also described the potential of MFC to improve board strength and encourage light-weighting, as well as creating barrier solutions.

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Written by:

Ole Martin Kristiansen

Ole Martin is the Marketing Manager of Exilva in Borregaard. He holds a bachelor's degree in Media Management and has been with the company since 2017.