“Forest cluster companies operating in Finland are on the look out for new forest products. In order to be able to meet the challenges of these companies we need to improve the current level of know-how in wood-based products and wood processing at molecular level. New territory has been charted for example in the areas of composite and nanomaterials,” says Professor Janne Laine of the Helsinki University of Technology’s Department of Forest Products Technology.
Interest in cellulose-based nanofibres is primarily driven by its environmental value as a biomaterial. It is also known that nanomaterials can be used, for example, to achieve strength properties which are not attainable with particles of bigger size classes. Furthermore, the smaller the particle is, the bigger the surface area, which in turn increases the desired interactivity with other materials.
“One of the main application targets for new materials is the car industry, which wants to use lightweight cellulose fibres in car interior panelling. Estimates in terms of volume of the natural fibre requirement of the European car industry in 2010 are extremely substantial,” says Laine.
Professor Laine’s research team is one of five teams involved in examining and developing cellulose-based nanofibres as part of the Finnish-Swedish Wood Material Science and Engineering research programme.
Research demonstrates the versatility of wood fibre
According to Professor Janne Laine, the Nanostructured Cellulose Products research project has shown that wood fibre can be used to make an extremely versatile range of materials, both for traditional wood processing industry products as well as for totally new applications.
Cellulose fibres (30 micrometers wide, 2–3 millimetres long) consist of nanometre-scale microfibrils (4 nm wide, 100–200 nm long).
The chief objective of the project has been to produce uniform quality nanofibre (microfibrillated cellulose, MFC) from cellulose fibres by combining enzymatic or chemical treatment with mechanical processing. The second objective has been to attempt to functionalise the surfaces of the microfibrils, e.g. by means of polymers in order to be able to utilise the converted fibrils in as many materials as possible. The third objective has been to demonstrate how cellulose fibrils can give totally new properties to a range of different materials.
The project has achieved an 80 percent reduction in the energy requirement of microfibrillar cellulose manufacture as compared to levels formerly claimed in literature. In addition, enzymatic pre-treatment combined with specific mechanical treatments has produced microfibrils of extremely high and uniform quality.
Boosting material conductivity, strength, elasticity, lightness and self-cleaning properties
“We’ve succeeded in modifying the surfaces of microfibrils e.g. by means of different polymers, which has, for instance, enabled us to make their surfaces more electrically charged. Microfibrils give considerable toughness and strength to traditional paper products even in small quantities. Correspondingly, microfibrils, as so-called nanocomposite structures, form an extremely high-strength material (e.g. film) the plasticity (elasticity) of which is possible to regulate for example by means of starch,” says Laine.
“Cellulose microfibrils can also be used to make ultra-light materials. By combining fibrils with conductive polymers, we’ve been able to make cellulose based structures which conduct electricity. It’s also been possible to coat microfibrils with a thin layer of titanium dioxide, which makes the material photocatalytically active. Titanium dioxide coated microfibrillar cellulose could be used, for instance, in solar cells and applications in which self-cleaning surfaces are needed, such as filters.”
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Permanent magnets are very important for technologies of the future like electromobility and renewable energy, and rare earth elements (REE) are necessary for their manufacture. The Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg, Germany, has now succeeded in identifying promising approaches and materials for new permanent magnets through use of an in-house simulation process based on high-throughput screening (HTS). The team was able to improve magnetic properties this way and at the same time replaced REE with elements that are less expensive and readily available. The results were published in the online technical journal “Scientific Reports”.
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In the Beyond EUV project, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena are developing key technologies for the manufacture of a new generation of microchips using EUV radiation at a wavelength of 6.7 nm. The resulting structures are barely thicker than single atoms, and they make it possible to produce extremely integrated circuits for such items as wearables or mind-controlled prosthetic limbs.
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In 2010 the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for the discovery of the exceptional material graphene, which consists of a single layer of carbon atoms...
The trend-forward world of display technology relies on innovative materials and novel approaches to steadily advance the visual experience, for example through higher pixel densities, better contrast, larger formats or user-friendler design. Fraunhofer ISC’s newly developed materials for optics and electronics now broaden the application potential of next generation displays. Learn about lower cost-effective wet-chemical printing procedures and the new materials at the Fraunhofer ISC booth # 1021 in North Hall D during the SID International Symposium on Information Display held from 22 to 27 May 2016 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.
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