October 13, 2015

Cellulose Nanofibers Could Reduce Paper’s Environmental Impact

SPLITTING HAIRS Micrometers-wide cellulose fibers derived from wood pulp are used
to make paper. Nanofibers made by splitting apart such fibers can make stronger paper
when added to the mix. Credit: Environ. Sci. Technol.

(October 13, 2015)  Nanomaterials: Adding nanofibers to paper more than doubles the number of times it can be recycled

Adding cellulose nanofibers to paper pulp creates paper that can be recycled more than twice as many times as regular paper (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2015, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b02676). Depending on how the nanofibers are produced, this should reduce paper’s environmental impact, researchers say.
Paper is a jumbled mat of micrometers-wide cellulose fibers. In the past few years, researchers have been interested in making paper with nanometers-wide cellulose fibers in addition to regular fibers. The high surface area of such nanofibers lets them form more bonds with adjacent fibers, resulting in tougher paper.

Marc Delgado-Aguilar of the University of Girona and his colleagues wanted to analyze the environmental impact of adding nanofibers to paper. They recycled standard paper several times by using either conventional mechanical recycling techniques or by adding 3% by weight of cellulose nanofibers to the paper pulp at each cycle. They tested the paper’s mechanical strength after every cycle.

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