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Tuesday, March 19

Nanocellulose: Path to Commercialization

John Cowie, Agenda 2020 Technology Alliance, Washington, DC
Physical Sciences Directorate Seminar
10:00 AM — 11:00 AM, Chemical and Material Sciences Building (4100), Room J-302
Contact: Brenda Wyatt (, 865.574.3239


Despite being the most available natural polymer on earth, it is only recently that cellulose has gained prominence as a nanostructured material, in the form of crystalline nanocellulose (CNC) and fibrillated nanocellulose (CNF). CNCs and CNFs with widths in the nanometer range are nature-based materials with unique and potentially useful features. Most importantly, these novel nanocelluloses open up the strongly expanding fields of sustainable materials and nanocomposites. Today there is a substantial amount of research on these materials, and commercial development is now under way with some very promising applications. Applications in polymer reinforcement and anti-microbial films will be hitting the market soon. The United States and other nations expect to see numerous benefits from the commercialization of cellulosic nanomaterials. Development and commercialization of new lightweight, high-performance wood-derived products can help reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while increasing the potential for rural manufacturing opportunities, including the creation of many new high-paying jobs. Until recently production of nanocellulose was on the lab scale, in kilogram batches. However, a number of manufacturing facilities have recently been built that has increased production to upwards of multiple tons per day. These new pilot- and commercial-scale manufacturing facilities are beginning to aid in the commercialization of these materials by providing researchers and early adopters of the technology with working quantities of these new sustainable and renewable nanomaterials. The path forward to commercialization involves the formation of a research joint venture (RJV) type of a public/private partnership for the purpose of cooperative research and development among industry, government, and universities. This research joint ventures will play an instrumental role in rapidly introducing this new technology to the marketplace. The mission of this RJV will be to create a shared competitive advantage to achieve and strengthen nanocellulose manufacturing technology. The market potential for nanocellulose materials is continually being revised upward as this new class of materials is a game-changer where new products are regularly being invented.