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Bacterial nanocellulose can become a strength enhancer  

Björn Alriksson, Processum, standing by one of Processum’s bioreactors in which bacterial nanocellulose will be produced. Photo: Processum
Björn Alriksson, Processum, standing by one of Processum’s bioreactors in which bacterial nanocellulose will be produced. Photo: Processum
Photo: Processum
Photo: Processum
Published by
Simon Matthis - 02 May 2018

In a joint research project Umeå University and Processum will develop methods for production of bacterial nanocellulose (BNC) from residual streams from the pulp and paper industry. The aim is to produce sufficient quantities of bacterial nanocellulose to be tested as additive in board, textile and bioplastics applications. Collaboration with companies from the paper and pulp industry as well as companies on the application side is thus welcome.

Different types of nanocellulose can give new and improved characteristics to a number of different materials. So far, research as well as most demonstration and production efforts have primarily been focused on cellulose nanofibers (CNF), and cellulose nanocrystals, (CNC). In this project researchers from Umeå University and Processum will develop and scale up a method for production of BNC. As the name says, the nanocellulose is produced by bacteria.

“At Umeå University our research group has already been able to produce bacterial nanocellulose in laboratory scale based on a residual stream from a pulp mill”, says Professor Leif Jönsson who is in charge of the research group. “We have produced small amounts of BNC which we have added to paper with promising results. The paper got improved mechanical characteristics, i.e. higher tensile and tear index. Nanocellulose produced with the aid of bacteria differs from CNF and CNC. It is purer, has a higher degree of polymerisation, is more crystalline and thinner.”

“The way to produce bacterial nanocellulose today is expensive as the methods are inefficient and the growth medium is expensive”, says Björn Alriksson, Head of Group -Biotechnology at Processum. “This is why we will use low-value residual streams from pulp mills as substrate and the production will be carried out in stirred bioreactors to try to improve the production. In this project we will scale up the process starting in our laboratory scale multibioreactors, then continue with experiments in our 50 litre bioreactor and finally we will produce BNC in a 600 litre reactor. “

The BNC will then be tested in applications such as strength enhancer in board, textiles and plastics. The goal is to produce BNC from industrial residual streams for applications where relatively high volumes of BNC are needed.

“Nanocellulose research has for years been a strong area within RISE. The cooperation between Processum and Umeå University really complements the research activities done on MFC/NFC and CNC,” says Pernilla Walkenström, acting Division Manager RISE Bioeconomy.