“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.”
Alkaline soil, sensible sensor
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Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
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