Highly crystalline nano particles, known as nano crystalline cellulose (NCC), are released when cellulose fibrils are processed under carefully controlled conditions. A unique technique for the self-assembly of NCC particles into highly ordered, cellular structures has recently been developed by Melodea and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
NCC-Foam will address this process by developing commercially-viable, lightweight, rigid foam core materials from self-assembled nano-crystalline cellulose (NCC).
The constituent NCC nanofibres will have a sustainably-sourced bio-based origin - pulp fibre sludge from paper mill or forestry waste. In Europe alone, the pulp and paper industry produces 11 million tonnes of waste each year. This is considered to be a significant, reliable and affordable source of cellulose. Furthermore, the proposed work, when exploited, would provide an effective means of tackling this problematic industrial waste stream.
The development of NCC materials will be suitable for use in multiple applications, where sustainable, lightweight, moisture resistant, and highly insulating materials are required.
One such application will be maritime interior wall panels, where a 33% reduction in wall panel weight will reduce the mass of a typical cruise ship by around 360 tonnes, with associated fuel cost savings of around €150,000 per year.
The project will also be applied to modular buildings and construction, where cellular fibres will form an ideal replacement for polystyrene insulating sandwich cores.