To produce rayon the old fashioned way it needs chemically intense processing of wood pulp or plant fibres. The cellulose that is extracted is treated with caustic soda, carbon disulfide, and sulfuric acid. You’re no doubt familiar with how nasty sulfuric acid can be, but carbon disulfide is usually dangerous stuff, too and its exposure can lead to cramps, muscle weakness, and a loss of feeling in the extremities.
The process employed by Nanollose is a severe contrast. Instead of cutting down trees or harvesting plants and dousing it with harsh chemicals they just let microbes chow down on biomass that would have otherwise been wasted. It takes just a few weeks for the microbes to turn biomass into usable cellulose.
For starters, Nanollose fed coconut leftovers shipped in from Indonesia to its hungry microbes. While that worked nicely for trial-sized production, ramping up to an industrial scale will require more plentiful sources of biomass.
Companies have been manufacturing rayon since the early 20th century. It is relatively low- cost to produce and doesn’t require as much human labour as cotton or wool.
The company says it is looking at options as it prepares to enhance the production and seize a piece of the multi-billion dollar rayon production pie.
Another advantage of Nanollose’s is that it can be processed by existing industrial equipment. Manufacturers who want to switch from wood- or plant-derived cellulose to the microbe-produced alternative won’t have to do any re-tooling at their mills.
Producing fibres like cotton and wool for clothing can require a lot of land and water. Luckily, there are scientists working to create more modern, eco-friendly sources. By and large, there’s an Australian company that has come up with an extensive new way to produce rayon fibres. Nanollose is doing it in a much more eco-friendly way with the help of microscopic organisms.
Who is Nanollose
Nanollose Ltd is an Australian based biotechnology company which has developed (and aims to continue to develop) innovative proprietary technologies relating to the production, processing and applications of microbial nanocellulose, which have the potential to effect change in the global cellulose industry and to offer an environmentally sustainable alternative to plant-based cellulose materials.
Cellulose, in its various forms, is produced globally and used to manufacture a wide range of products such as cotton and linen textiles, and a range of regenerated fibres and films such as rayon and cellophane. It is also the main component of paper and paper related products. Traditionally, cellulose has been obtained from plant-based sources such as cotton, flax and timber. These sources require considerable agricultural land and inputs putting pressure on natural resources.
By contrast, microbial nanocellulose is a form of cellulose consisting of nano-sized fibres produced by a non-hazardous and non-infectious bacterium in a biological system. Nanollose refers to the microbial nanocellulose that is produced using the Nanollose Technologies as plant-free cellulose. This concept is core to the Company’s philosophy.
Nanollose Technologies, which uses industrial organic and agricultural waste products to produce plant-free cellulose, does not involve the felling of trees or require the use of arable land or its associated use of irrigation, pesticides and other resource intensive inputs making it a sustainable product with potential for industrial scale manufacture.
Nanollose believes that plant-free cellulose is a more environmentally sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional forms of plant-based cellulose. Its focus is to develop sustainable alternatives to plant-based cellulose by developing improved systems and processes to produce plant-free cellulose, novel methods of processing it, and new products from it, which can be used in the global industrial and consumer markets.