Extraction of cellulose nanofibres from second generation bioethanol production side streams

The growing worldwide demand for food, fuel and materials puts pressure on biomass supply. Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research is developing a method to extract cellulose nanofibres for various applications from the side streams of second generation bioethanol production. This method goes hand in hand with food production.

Cellulose nanofibres from side streams

Cellulose nanofibres are present in basically any woody and lignocellulosic feedstock. The potential value of cellulose nanofibres is very high compared to the feedstock, which is cheap. As a feedstock for nanocellulose,  second generation bioethanol production side streams offer an additional advantage: part of the extraction process has been performed already. This means that the pretreatment of the lignocellulose into fermentable sugars has resulted in the extraction of amorphous cellulose and hemicellulose. As a consequence the crystalline cellulose sections, also called whiskers and considered recalcitrant in the bioethanol production process, are partly isolated already, while at the same time the concentration has increased.

Fibre extraction

Food & Biobased Research is using methods known from the pulp and paper industry as a basis for procedures to extract the cellulose nanofibres from second generation bioethanol production side streams.

Range of benefits

Incorporating cellulose nanofibres in materials can have several benefits:

  • Strength improvement of polymer matrices, while retaining its transparency
  • Functionalities such as targeted delivery or slow release of active compounds can be added
  • Suspension stabilisation
  • Resistance to moisture
  • Resistance to high temperatures

Applications and methods

Potential applications for cellulosic nanofibres are:

  • Coating formulations, sizing agents
  • Adhesives
  • Barrier packaging
  • Non-calorific food stabilizers and gels
  • Hygienic and super absorbent tissues
  • Cosmetics
  • Biomaterials pharmaceuticals as well as controlled delivery of active compounds
  • Filtration
  • Paper and board reinforcement
  • Composites and foams

In the PIDON-NBESC project, Food & Biobased Research develops a method to modify cellulose nanofibre surfaces aiming at adequate dispersion of the nanofibre into polymers and improved adhesion to polymer matrices.