Research review March 2018: new topics from the world of cellulose fibrils

Ole Martin Kristiansen | April 3, 2018

Continuously following the world of cellulose fibrils and the development is both dynamic and interesting. A lot of new inventions are taking place, based on the cellulose fibrils. We have given 3D printing a quite high focus in the last couple of reviews, but this week there are two other news items on the list: composites made from cellulose fibrils. Dig into this week’s research review to find out more on what might possibly be the next generation of composite materials.

A new wood based battery is built (!)

As batteries are becoming an increasingly important asset to people’s daily life, researchers at KTH and Stanford started looking into the possibility of making these products with nanocellulose. In 2016, the consumption for lithium was around 78 000 tons, and it’s on a steady increase. As annual sales forecasts, just for electric cars, are projected at around 24 million per year by 2030, and estimating that in an average battery pack of a car there are over 400 batteries, the opportunities are obvious.

The researchers at KTH and Stanford have created a process they describe as ‘enabling the creation of a spongy battery with high duration and that can withstand the electronics’. The product is said to be lightweight, tougher and more porous, which is a benefit when the ions are passing through. The sponges are overwhelmed with an ink designed to pass an electrical current where the aim is to create a hybrid battery and a semiconductor which can be charged quickly.

Nanowood: a potential replacement of Styrofoam?

Expanded Styrofoam has for decades been the work horse for insulation in products, ranging from car manufacturing to industrial buildings, and coffee cups. The Styrofoam has seen some skepticism for some years, partly due to animals that may get access to the Styrofoam and eat it, and in addition absorbing dangerous chemical compounds, thus increasing the potential danger for animals eating it in the wild. Recycling measures are of course taken, but are there new technologies out there that are potential replacements?

Scientists at the University of Maryland have been working of a potential replacement of Styrofoam, and think they have found a solution. They have created a product based on cellulose, where they have removed the lignin (which is the material binding the cellulose fibers together and also acting like a heat conductor), which gave the nanocellulose they were left with really good insulating properties. They claim to be an alternative also to glass wool in where the nanocellulose does not irritate skin, eyes or lungs.

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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.