Cellulose: May the Force Be with You
The growth in print decoupled from general economic growth in the ’90s, and the demand for printed products has now been declining for a decade. Between 2000 and 2010, printing and writing paper demand fell by 24 percent.
This has challenged the entire supply chain. Printers are adding value-added services, paper merchants are selling a range of products in addition to paper, and paper manufacturers are looking into biofuels, as well as lignin and cellulose based products.
One of the most innovative and exciting developments is CelluForce, a joint venture between Domtar and FPInnovations. Last year, Domtar and FPInnovations joined forces to build a one-tonne-per-day nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) plant on the site of Domtar’s pulp and paper mill in Windsor, Quebec. The plant, the first of its kind, will start up in early 2012.
FPInnovations, the Canadian paper and forest products research institute, has been working with NCC for many years and has demonstrated that small amounts of NCC can be added to polymers (including biopolymers), coatings, films and fibers for improved barrier properties, strength and durability, along with other interesting properties. Through joint-development agreements with select partners, CelluForce will support the development of a broad range of new products.
The “green” aspects of NCC are notable. Because it is cellulose, it is renewable and biodegradable. Since it improves performance of films, coatings and other materials, it can permit use of environmentally friendly materials to replace less desirable alternatives, and there is also the potential to reduce the weight of coatings and substrates.
I’ve been quoted before as saying “green is the new green,” with the second “green” referring to the cost savings that derive from material reduction and weight savings. In addition to enabling the creation of innovative new products, one of the keys to success of CelluForce will be its ability to enable material and cost reductions, with the addition of small quantities of NCC.