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Cellulose-based plastics address need for more sustainable raw materials from food, healthcare, coatings and construction

Cellulose-based plastics address need for more sustainable raw materials from food, healthcare, coatings and construction

01-Jun-17

Cellulose plastics are bioplastics manufactured using cellulose or derivatives of cellulose. Cellulose plastics are manufactured using softwood trees as the basic raw material. Barks of the tree are separated and can be used as an energy source in the production. To segregate cellulose fiber from the tree, the tree is cooked or heated in a digester. As per Transparency Market Research, resins and lignins are produced as a byproduct in the digester. The byproducts can be used as a fuel or as a feedstock in the production of other chemical products. The pulp such produced is comprises hemicelluloses and alpha cellulose.  Pulp is then treated with bleaching chemicals to eliminate any traces of resins and lignins and to reduce the hemicelluloses content of the pulp. The processed pulp contains water which is removed from the pulp before processing the pulp with high alpha cellulose content. The pulp is then used in the production of cellulose esters used in the production of cellulose plastics. Cellulose esters are produced by reaction of the processed pulp with certain acids and anhydrides in varied concentrations and temperatures depending on the end user application. The properties and chemical composition of cellulose esters is dependent on the acids and anhydrides used in the production process. Butyrate, acetate and propionate are among the major types of cellulose esters. Cellulose acetate is the dominant product type for cellulose esters and the trend is anticipated to continue during the forecast period. Major applications for cellulose plastics include thermoplastics, extruded films, eyeglass frames, electronics, sheets, rods, etc. Molding materials is the most dominant application segment for cellulose plastics and the trend is expected to continue for a foreseeable future. Plastic is produced mainly using non renewable sources such as crude oil and its several derivatives owing to which, the carbon footprint is high during the production of plastics. Moreover, other issues such as biodegradability and other environmental hazards associated with traditional plastics have led to surge in number of regulations to control the use of plastics. The regulations imposed on plastics have led to surge demand for bio based plastics and thus has been driving demand for cellulose plastics. Furthermore, increasing demand for electronics products such as transparent dialers, screen shields, etc. has been among foremost growth drivers for cellulose plastics market. Softwood is the dominant raw material used in the production of cellulose plastics and increasing number of deforestation regulations is a major restraint for the market. Easy availability and low cost of conventional plastics is also among major restraint for cellulose plastics market growth. Moreover, high efficiency and comparative cost benefit of conventional plastics over cellulose plastics has restrained market growth for cellulose plastics. Increasing research and development to produce high efficiency and low cost cellulose plastics is anticipated to offer huge growth opportunity in cellulose ester market.

Eastman Chemical Company has introduced Eastman TRĒVA™, a breakthrough in engineering bioplastics that help global brands concurrently meet their sustainability and performance needs in today’s rapidly evolving marketplace. TRĒVA™’s composition is about half cellulose, sourced from trees derived exclusively from sustainably managed forests that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The new material is BPA-free and phthalate-free. Its excellent flow rates, durability and dimensional stability allow for less material usage, thinner parts, and longer product life, enhancing lifecycle assessments. TRĒVA™ offers excellent chemical resistance, standing up better than other engineering thermoplastics to some of the harshest chemicals, including skin oils, sunscreens, and household cleaners. The material’s low birefringence means eliminating the unwelcomed rainbow effect some plastics experience with polarized light, improving the user experience with electronic device screens and retail displays.
Excellent flow characteristics also enable design freedom, allowing TRĒVA™ to be used with complicated designs and in filling thin parts. Under recommended processing conditions, recent thin-wall 30 mil spiral flow testing shows that TRĒVA™ flow rates are significantly better than polycarbonate and polycarbonate/ABS blends, and comparable to ABS.
TRĒVA™ is designed to allow for superior surface gloss, clarity and warm touch and feel, enabled through a combination of the base material and Eastman’s technological expertise. The material also boasts great color saturation, and superior secondary processing and decorating capability, creating additional design and branding options.
TRĒVA™’s superior combination of sustainability and safety benefits, end-use performance improvements, and design and brand flexibility make it ideal material choice for the following applications: 
* Eyeglass frames, wearable electronics, headphones, and many other personal devices that come in direct contact with the skin; 
* Electronic display applications, such as lenses and covers, that consumers need to see through; 
* Electronics, housings, intricate cosmetics cases, and other products with high design and complex specifications; 
* Automotive interior components wherein chemical resistance and aesthetics are desired; 
* And other demanding applications with high sustainability and safety requirements.

AkzoNobel and agro-industrial cooperative Royal Cosun have partnered to develop novel products from cellulose side streams resulting from sugar beet processing. The partnership will combine Royal Cosun's specialist knowledge in separating and purifying agricultural process side streams with AkzoNobel's expertise in the chemical modification of cellulose.
Cellulose-based products resulting from sugar beet processing, addressing the need for more sustainable raw materials from a variety of industries, such as food and healthcare, as well as the coatings and construction sectors." In 2014, AkzoNobel announced it had teamed up with Deloitte and a handful of other Dutch stakeholders to investigate the potential for producing chemicals from beet-derived sugar feedstock, as part of ongoing industry efforts to replace increasingly scarce non-renewable raw materials. This new partnership with Royal Cosun illustrates that potential.
As well as highlighting Royal Cosun's focus on the bio-based economy, the partnership also underlines AkzoNobel's Planet Possible agenda, which includes ongoing efforts to develop and introduce sustainable, bio-based products that contribute to a circular economy. Thankfully, more and more companies are getting wise to the wonderful ways of circular models by putting previously wasted materials to good use. Last year, Biome Bioplastics began a major development program to significantly accelerate the global bioplastics market with the production of novel target materials, including a fully bio-based polyester. The project aims to harness industrial biotechnology techniques to produce bio-based chemicals from lignin — an abundant waste product of the pulp and paper industry — at a scale suitable for industrial testing. The availability of these chemicals could revolutionize the bioplastics market. 
  
Plant cellulose may potentially provide a renewable and biodegradable alternative to polymers currently used in 3D printing materials, a new study has found-
“Cellulose is the most important component in giving wood its mechanical properties. And because it is inexpensive, biorenewable, biodegradable and also very chemically versatile, it is used in a lot of products,” said lead researcher, Sebastian Pattinson of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US. “Cellulose and its derivatives are used in pharmaceuticals, medical devices as food additives, building materials, clothing, all sorts of different areas. And a lot of these kinds of products would benefit from the kind of customisation that additive manufacturing- 3D printing enables,” Pattinson added. When heated, cellulose thermally decomposes before it becomes flowable. The intermolecular bonding also makes high-concentration cellulose solutions too viscous to easily extrude, researchers said. To avoid this problem, researchers chose to work with cellulose acetate - a material that is easily made from cellulose and is already widely produced and readily available. Using cellulose acetate the number of hydrogen bonds in this material was reduced by the acetate groups. Cellulose acetate can be dissolved in acetone and extruded through a nozzle.
As the acetone quickly evaporates, the cellulose acetate solidifies in place. A subsequent optional treatment replaces the acetate groups and increases the strength of the printed parts. “After we 3D print, we restore the hydrogen bonding network through a sodium hydroxide treatment. We find that the strength and toughness of the parts we get are greater than many commonly used materials,” for 3D printing, including acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA), said Pattinson. The research was published in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

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