The future of MFC: Applications and uses

Ole Martin Kristiansen | September 13, 2016

Microfibrillated cellulose (MFC) is already present in a variety of applications, like adhesives, coatings, cosmetics and so on. But where will the future applications of this new material be? Will we find new functionalities from the MFC and how will it work?  My aim with this post is to inspire you to open your mind and let your ideas flow on how you can create a better product using the MFC.

The link between characteristics and functionalities

To be able to find the interesting functionalities in your end products we need to link them to the features of the MFC. For example, MFC is known to have shear thinning behaviour, high viscosity in water at rest, high strength when it dries out as well as excellent barrier properties due to its high surface area and dense surface. These characteristics  create exciting functionality potentials, but can we try to make some of these functionalities so precise that they turn into an application and possibilities for use? Well, let’s find out.


Application examples: Where can we envision use of MFC?

RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden), made a fascinating article on potential future uses of the microfibrillated cellulose and nanocellulose. They look beyond a lot of the commonly known application uses of this material and give some great examples of where we may find MFC in the future. I will try to summarize:

  • Flexible electronics
    • MFC has shown the ability to increase the strength of flexible electronics and electronic films. Flexible electronics has been a highly discussed area for some years now, and the idea of being able to fold your TV or computer tablet is an intriguing one. The ability to provide stretchable circuits and batteries are heavily worked on, but not yet solved (although Samsung has its Galaxy S6). MFC is seen as a potential part of this puzzle. 
  • Barriers for food packaging
    • Due to the increase of hydrogen bonding when the MFC dries (so called hornification), the ability to create a good oxygen barrier when dry is the main functionality MFC provide within this field. This effect is irreversible, providing you with a moisture resistant and very dense surface.

      Read also: 3 ways to exploit the large surface area of microfibrillated cellulose
  • Moulded composites and technical fibers
    • With its strength, MFC and nanocellulose can be part of new lightweight composites for creating lighter and stronger automotive body parts. The tensile strength makes MFC an alternative for these types of composites. Also, providing a natural material can reduce the environmental footprint of the car as well.
  • Construction materials (including insulation)
    • As an insulation material, or at least as a performance additive, the MFC can contribute with its rheological and strength functionalities. The ability to reduce synthetically derived products and reduce VOC (volatile organic compound) levels, as well as provide reinforcement and stabilisation to foams, joints, adhesives, etc., makes MFC attractive to the building industry. In addition, the MFC is a highly attractive additive in concrete

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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.