Cellulose can be broken down into what is called microfibrillated cellulose (MFC). MFC consists of plant fibres that are only 100 nanometres in diameter, but can be extremely long, making them highly suitable as a reinforcement material for biodegradable plastics. MFC membranes have also been shown to be impermeable to gases such as oxygen and can therefore be used to protect foodstuffs. SINTEF has worked before on barrier properties of food packaging, making use of nanotechnology to improve the shelf life of foods by limiting their exposure to oxygen. This previous experience will benefit the new project NanoBarrier, which includes no fewer than 15 Norwegian and foreign participants from industry and the university sector.
Most of today’s plastics are petroleum-based, but scientists are now trying to create a climate-friendly alternative to plastics from renewable resources; bioplastic and MFC. “Bioplastics can make a contribution to sustainable development. Our aim is to develop materials and packaging that will add as little as possible to our environmental footprint, and ideally, will be climate-neutral. In any case, as the oil runs down we are going to need alternative raw materials,” says the project manager, senior scientist Åge Larsen of SINTEF.
The total budget of the NanoBarrier project is €9.9 million, of which €7.2 million comes from the European Union. The project currently has 15 participants, of which six are industrial companies, including packaging manufacturers from Greece (Argo), Portugal (Logoplaste) and Sweden (Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget – SCA). Norwegian Borregaard is contributing microfilbillated cellulose – MFC to the project, which is due to start in March this year.
Tags: MFC, NanoBarrier
Source: SINTEF, 2012-01-30.