- A new process is environmentally friendly and utilizes much less electricity.
- The process is shorter and more efficient.
- The cellulose is used in bogeys and medical implants.
Russian scientists from the federal Krasnoyarsk Scientific Center discovered a new method of obtaining microfibrillated cellulose, which is used in the manufacturing of biodegradable materials and medical implants. The cellulose polymer is a naturally occurring linear polymer made of repeating units of glucose. Single polymers are stacked together forming fibrils, and these fibrils stack together again to form the cellulose fiber structure that is present in nature. This makes for a very interesting supramolecular structure that consists of both crystalline and amorphous regions.
The Federal State Budget Scientific Institution, Federal Research Center “Krasnoyarsk Science Center of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences” (FRC KSC SB RAS) was established on 1st August 2016.
However, to obtain microfibrillated cellulose (MFC), it has to go through the fibrillation process of cellulose fibers. The fibrillation process involves the utilization of mechanical shearing. Then the cellulose fibers are separated into a three dimensional network of microfibrils with a large surface area.
The new process by the Russian scientists involves a simplified process of producing high quality pulp, instead of the three stages. It also reduces the consumption of electricity.
When harvesting and processing wood, a huge amount of waste is generated in the form of sawdust and shavings, which require recycling. A promising direction for the use of wood waste is chemical processing into cellulose and new functional materials, including microfibrillated cellulose.
The new process will involve these stages:
1) Removing the lignin from the wood chips. Lignin is a class of complex organic polymers that form key structural materials in the support tissues of vascular plants and some algae. Lignins are particularly important in the formation of cell walls, especially in wood and bark, because they lend rigidity and do not rot easily.
2) Acid Hydrolysis.
3) Ultrasonic treatment.
4) Freeze-drying the cellulose.
In the future the process of wood delignification should be integrated with the pre-processing of raw materials in order to isolate hemmicelluloses for maximum use of valuable chemical products from wood biomass.
Scientists also plan to use environmentally friendly solid acid catalysts that can be reused instead of corrosive sulfuric acid at the stage of hydrolysis of cellulose. A hemicellulose is one of a number of heteropolymer, such as arabinoxylans, present along with cellulose in almost all terrestrial plant cell walls. While cellulose is crystalline, strong, and resistant to hydrolysis, hemicelluloses have random, amorphous structure with little strength.
The new proposed process is clearly more environmentally friendly and much better on the ecosystem. Any time new methods proposed can help the environment, they should be implemented and adopted into the mainstream. Every bit helps the world.