Microfibrillated Cellulose – The structural elements of wood as ecological solution for high-tech products

WEIDMANN has been working with cellulose materials since the late 19th century, developing into the world’s leading provider of cellulosic transformer insulation. In recent years the research focus has moved from innovation on insulation design to modifying the raw material used for insulation – electrical grade cellulose.

A new lab was founded with state of the art equipment allowing research into the modification of cellulose and the resulting effects in paper and board products. Our work and experience with microfibrillated cellulose has led us to the decision to start WEIDMANN FIBER TECHNOLOGY with the goal of serving the market with microfibrillated cellulose and derived products. After commissioning the first MFC pilot plant in August 2015 in Rapperswil, Switzerland, WEIDMANN Fiber Technology is planning the first production plant with an annual capacity of 1000 t.Bild Microfibrillated Cellulose klein

What is Microfibrillated Cellulose ?

Cellulose is currently one of the biopolymers with the largest production volume world-wide (1011 t per annum ). Cellulose, together with hemicellulose and lignin are the main components of trees and plants. Since the invention of stone ground wood and chemical pulping processes the natural fibers of trees and plants have been used in papermaking. The dimensions of pulp fibers are between 0.7 mm and 6 mm in length and 10 µm and 80 µm in thickness. For the manufacturing of WMFC Q_eco, Q_standard and Q_advanced, WEIDMANN Fiber Technology goes on step further. Using equipment which introduces high shear forces leads to the next smaller level of structural elements, the cellulose fibrills. With these fibrills, new properties and with them a completely new biological material emerges, offering an enormous surface area and direct access to the cellulose hydroxyl and carboxyl groups for modifications.

Properties of MFC

Most of the properties of microfibrillated cellulose are related to its high surface area in combination with the high aspect ratio of the fibrills. Because the direct determination of the true surface is very complex, we are combining several indirect tests. The combination of the so called water retention value, which means the amount of water that can only removed by thermal, but not with mechanical energy, together with particle length distribution and the viscosity at different shear rates are used instead of measuring the surface area directly. For example, our high quality WMFC Q_advanced retains more than 15 times its own weight in water; this means surface area of almost 190 m2 per 1 g !

Application of MFC

Microfibrillated cellulose can be used in a wide range of applications. WMFC is already being tested in the paper and board industry with success. WEIDMANN Fiber Technology is also proud to be working together in the development of applications in various other industries such as cosmetics, building, filtration, separation, ceramics, food and in general in replacement of plastic based products with biological polymers.

Microfibrillated cellulose fulfils different functions in the products of our customers. These range from modifying viscosity, natural reinforcement, carrier of substances, controlling water balance and dry-out and as modified biopolymer with functional groups, e.g. gas barriers.WEIDMANN Fiber Technology not only invests heavily into the ecological and economic production of microfibrillated cellulose, but also develops materials based on microfibrillated cellulose. Examples of products in development are hydrophobic and oleophilic sponges, films or aerogels.

Conclusion

Microfibrillated cellulose is a sustainable bio-polymer with immense potential. The industry has only just started industrialising microfibrillated cellulose based products and new applications are being tested world-wide. WEIDMANN Fiber Technology has set a milestone in process engineering, providing a range of high quality products at an attractive price point.

www.weidmann-electrical.com

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