Microfibrillated Cellulose (MFC)

An Emerging Structural Material

Wood is made up of a cellulose matrix. Fibers that form such a matrix are fibril bundles, which consist of small elements known as microfibrils.

There are several different methods to produce Microfibrillated Cellulose (MFC). The first step is to soak and disperse the pulp in water. Later, cellulose fibers are carefully separated with high shear forces into microfibrils. Different methods can be used, such as high-pressure homogenizer, grinding, cryocrushing, high-intensity ultrasonication, electrospinning, etc., to create such shear forces.

Fibrils are in most instances a hydrophilic material, and thus, best suited for water-based/water-borne systems. Key functionalities of MFC are as follows:

Driven by these functionalities, MFC finds application across multiple industries. Some of the key applications of MFC are depicted in the figure below:

 

Comparing the potential for MFC across applications and understanding the high potential areas require mapping the functionalities offered by MFC and analyzing how it meets various application requirements. In order to do so, we can look at the following matrix:

Conclusion

MFC is emerging as one of the most promising chemistries across diverse applications, such as paint & coating, adhesives & sealants, and pulp & paper.

MFC is a renewable and biodegradable material. Industries such as paper and packaging are increasingly using renewable and biodegradable materials. Further, beneficial properties of MFC fiber help end-users in achieving lightweight and robust paper and packaging solutions.

Companies such as Stora Enso, Borregaard, WEIDMANN, FiberLean Technologies, and DAICEL offer MFC for multiple applications. In the near future, MFC will attract more players, and thus, it becomes interesting to study the size of the opportunity, technical requirement, and market outlook.

References

  1. PCI (Paint & Coating Industry) (2018)  https://www.pcimag.com/articles/105223-bio-based-solutions-for-coatings
  1. Exilva (2018) https://blog.exilva.com/microfibrillated-cellulose-or-nanocellulose
  1. Weidmann (2017) https://weidmannfibertechnology.com/what-is-mfc/
  1. Stora Enso https://www.storaenso.com/en/products/bio-based-materials/mfc-for-packaging
  1. University of Birmingham https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/documents/college-eps/chemical/eng-d/projects/abstracts/engd-pinkney.pdf
  1. Science Direct https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0266353809001006