TECNALIA expands its nanocellulose laboratory in Azpeitia to boost its use in industry

22 March 2021
Instalaciones nuevo laboratorio nanocelulosa

It incorporates state-of-the-art technologies with an automated feeding system.

TECNALIA has expanded its nanocellulose laboratory in Azpeitia and incorporated state-of-the-art technologies to turn it into a semi-pilot scale plant for producing cellulose micro/nanofibres, with an automated feeding system, the only one of its kind in Spain.

According to Álvaro Tejado, lead researcher for the nanocellulose line at TECNALIA: “We start with a wide variety of cellulose materials such as virgin fibre, treated fibre and industrial waste. We design and develop different types of (micro/nano) fibres and different functionalities for adding value, using and validating them in different applications and sectors, such as paper and cardboard, paints and coatings, adhesives, packaging, cements and mortars, composites, etc., by means of mechanical methods. These can be complemented with chemical and/or enzymatic treatments”.

The laboratory combines the new automated system for treating large quantities with pioneering technology in the sector such as the Masuko, a machine that produces cellulose micro/nanofibres from an aqueous suspension of cellulose fibres, irrespective of their origin.

Nanocellulose - renewable, biocompatible and biodegradable biomaterial

Nanocellulose refers to a family of biomaterials, found mainly in the cellulose fibres of trees and plants. Ever since it became possible to isolate these nanostructures, they have attracted increasing interest because of their great potential for use in a multitude of applications. This versatility is based on its physicochemical properties, as it is a renewable, biocompatible and biodegradable material with high reactivity.

It supports a wide range of functionalities; it has high intrinsic mechanical properties and can form interconnected networks; it has the ability to change the rheology of a mixture (as a thickener); and it can produce transparent or translucent materials with oxygen barrier properties.

The bioeconomy is a growing sector in Europe with great business opportunities, particularly in traditional markets such as paper and paper fibre. It has great potential in the food and industrial packaging sector, due to growing interest in the replacement of petroleum-based plastics with bio-based, biodegradable and compostable alternatives.

Further information

TECNALIA has been working on extracting and recovering nanocellulose for nearly 10 years. It promotes the use of this biomaterial at an industrial level, and collaborates with companies that generate waste with a high content of cellulose fibres and with material manufacturers interested in improving the circularity and sustainability of their products by using bio-based raw materials.