Tag Archives: CelluComp

Carrot-based helmets: a nanocellulose commercialization story

NanoCelluComp, a European Commission-funded project, whose name bears a close resemblance to a Scottish company, CelluComp, ended last year (my March 5, 2014 post). Both, NanoCelluComp and CelluComp, were/are involved in research featuring carrots and nanocellulose.

An Aug. 6, 2015 news item on ScienceDaily describes some Swiss/Scottish research into using carrot nanofibers in helmets,

Crackpot idea or recipe for success? This is a question entrepreneurs often face. Is it worth converting the production process to a new, ecologically better material? Empa [Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology or Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsansta] has developed an analysis method that enables companies to simulate possible scenarios — and therefore avoid bad investments. Here’s an example: Nanofibers made of carrot waste from the production of carrot juice, which can be used to reinforce synthetic parts.

All over the world, research is being conducted into biodegradable and recyclable synthetics. However, fiber-reinforced components remain problematic — if glass or carbon fibers are used. Within the scope of an EU research project, the Scottish company Cellucomp Limited has now developed a method to obtain nanofibers from carrot waste. [emphasis mine] These fibers would be both cost-effective and biodegradable. However, is the method, which works in the lab, also marketable on a large scale?

Here’s a composite image illustrating the notion of a carrot-based helmet,

Motorcycle helmets consist of fiber-reinforced synthetic material. Instead of glass fibers, a biological alternative is now also possible: plant fibers from the production of carrot juice. Empa researchers are now able to analyze whether this kind of production makes sense from an ecological and economical perspective – before money is actually invested in production plants.  Photo: 4ever.eu, composite photo: Empa

Motorcycle helmets consist of fiber-reinforced synthetic material. Instead of glass fibers, a biological alternative is now also possible: plant fibers from the production of carrot juice. Empa researchers are now able to analyze whether this kind of production makes sense from an ecological and economical perspective – before money is actually invested in production plants.
Photo: 4ever.eu, composite photo: Empa

An Aug. 6, 2015 Empa press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, provides more details abut the drive to commercialize this nanocellulose product,

An MPAS (multi-perspective application selection) method developed at Empa helps identify the industrial sectors where new materials might be useful from a technical and economical perspective. At the same time, MPAS also considers the ecological aspect of these new materials. The result for our example: Nanofibers made of carrot waste might be used in the production of motorcycle helmets or side walls for motorhomes in the future.

Three-step analysis

In order to clarify a new material’s market potential, Empa researchers Fabiano Piccinno, Roland Hischier and Claudia Som proceed in three steps for the MPAS method. First of all, the field of possible applications is defined: Which applications come into question based on the technical properties and what categories can they be divided into? Can the new material replace an existing one?

The second step concerns the technical feasibility and market potential: Can the material properties required be achieved with the technical process? Might the product quality vary from one production batch to the next? Can the lab process be upgraded to an industrial scale cost-effectively? Is the material more suited to the low-cost sector or expensive luxury goods? And finally: Does the product meet the legal standards and the customers’ certification needs?

In the third step, the ecological aspect is eventually examined: Is this new material for the products identified really more environmentally friendly – once all the steps from product creation to recycling have been factored in? Which factors particularly need to be considered during production stage to manufacture the material in as environmentally friendly a way as possible?

Industrial production on a five-ton scale – calculated theoretically

The MPAS approach enables individual scenarios for a future production to be calculated with an extremely high degree of accuracy. In the case of the carrot waste nanofibers, for instance, it is crucial whether five tons of fresh carrots or only 209 kilograms of carrot waste (fiber waste from the juicing process) are used as the base material for their production. The issue of whether the solvent is ultimately recycled or burned affects the production costs. And the energy balance depends on how the enzymes that loosen the fibers from the carrots are deactivated. In the lab, this takes place via heat; for production on an industrial level, the use of bleaching agents would be more cost-effective.

Conclusion: six possible applications for “carrot fibers“

For fiber production from carrot waste, the MPAS analysis identified six possible customer segments for the Scottish manufacturer Cellucomp that are worth taking a closer look at: Protective equipment and devices for recreational sport, special vehicles, furniture, luxury consumer goods and industrial manufacturing. The researchers listed the following examples: Motorcycle helmets and surfboards, side walls for motorhomes, dining tables, high-end loudspeaker boxes and product protection mats for marble-working businesses. Similarly detailed analyses can also be conducted for other renewable materials – before a lot of money is actually invested in production plants.

There are other attempts to commercialize nanocellulose (as I understand it, cellulose is one of the most common materials on earth and can be derived from several sources including trees, bananas, pineapples, and more) mentioned in my July 30, 2015 post. I will repeat a question from that post, where are the Canadian research efforts to develop and commercialize nanocellulose? If you have information, please do let me know.

NanoCelluComp; a European Commission-funded nanocellulose project

It was a bit of a surprise to find out there’s yet another nanocellulose fibre project but here it is in a Mar. 7, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,

The overall aim of the NanoCelluComp project is to develop a technology to utilise the high mechanical performance of cellulose nanofibres, obtained from food processing waste streams, combined with bioderived matrix materials, for the manufacture of 100% bio-derived high performance composite materials that will replace randomly oriented and unidirectional glass and carbon fibre reinforced plastics in a range of applications including transportation, wind turbines, biomedical, sport and consumer goods. More specifically, the project aims to develop a manufacturing process to form a 100% bio-composites with controlled alignment of the native modified cellulose nanofibres and evaluate these process with regard to the physical and mechanical performance of produced materials and suitability for use by industry via existing composite processing technologies. The project will also study the sustainability of the process and materials (nanocellulose bio-composites) in terms of environmental impacts and cost compared to existing materials, namely, carbon fibre reinforced plastics and glass fibre reinforced plastics.

It’s a project funded by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme whose funding runs out in Feb. 2014. Their fourth newsletter (PDF) is available for viewing. The most interesting bit of news in the publication (for me) is the announcement of a fifth meeting. From the 4th newsletter,

The consortium will next meet on the 14th and 15th of March at the facilities of KTH in Stockholm for its fifth meeting. The Project Technical Adviser, Prof Maria Tomoaia-Cotisel will also be in attendance. (p. 1)

The NanoCelluComp consortium is an amalgam of academic, government, and business agencies, from the NanoCelluComp website’s Consortium page,

Institute of Nanotechnology

The Institute of Nanotechnology (IoN) is one of the global leaders in providing nanotechnology information. It supplies industry and governments with intelligence on nanotechnology and its applications and has produced several important milestone publications. …


CelluComp is a composite materials technology company founded in 2004 by two expert materials scientists, Dr David Hepworth and Dr Eric Whale. …

University of Strathclyde

The University of Strathclyde (USTRATH) will be represented by the research group of Dr Simon Shilton. Dr Shilton’s group at Strathclyde has pioneered the use of rheological factors in hollow fibre membrane spinning. …

University of Copenhagen

The University of Copenhagen team (UCPH) comprises of research groups from the Department of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, the Department of Agriculture and Ecology and the Department of Food science at the Faculty of Life Sciences representing the complete repertoire of expertise and analytical methods required for the project. Prof. Peter Ulvskov will lead the team. …

Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden)

The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) team is represented in the project by the cellulose-based nanomaterials group of the Division of Glycoscience led by Prof. Qi Zhou. The current research program of the group is centred on the construction of self-assembled composite materials with multi-functionalities and well-defined architectures using cellulose nanofibers, native and modified carbohydrate polymers.  …

University of Reading

The University of Reading team (UREAD) is represented by researchers from the department of Chemistry led by Dr Fred Davis. …

SweTree Technologies

SweTree Technologies (STT) is a plant and forest biotechnology company providing products and technologies to improve the productivity and performance properties of plants, wood and fibre for forestry, pulp & paper, packaging, hygiene, textile and other fibre related industries. …

AL.P.A.S. S.r.l.

AL.P.A.S. S.r.l. (ALPAS) is a manufacturer of Epoxy Resin, Polyurethane, PVC and other adhesive systems based in Northern Italy. The company has over 30 years experience in supplying these products to the Automotive, Electric/Electronics, Marble, Building and other industries. …

Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA)

Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) is a materials science and technology research institution. …


Novozymes (NZ) is a world leader in bioinnovation and the world’s largest producer of industrial enzymes, with a market share of approximately 45%. …


Biovelop (BV) is an innovative Life Science company with production facilites in Kimstad, Sweden. The company specializes in the development and scaling up of cornerstone technologies in the area of extraction of functional ingredients from cereal grains and brans. …

I wish there was a bit more information in the fourth newsletter about what has been accomplished, from  the newsletter,

Work packages 1 and 2 are now completed (with feasibility studies on alternative vegetable waste streams performed, and methods for liberating and stabilizing nanocellulose achieved).

Work package 3 will conclude shortly with a better understanding of how to improve the mechanical properties of the liberated nanocelulose.

Activities in work package 4 are also nearing completion, with novel production processes achieved and resultant fibres now being tested.

Work package 5 activities to integrate all project research results have been slightly delayed, however initial test composites have been made. Following successful testing of these, the process will be scaled up to industrially relevant amounts.

Work package 6 has produced a report describing environment, health and safety (EHS) aspects and initial findings on end- user acceptability criteria for the developed composites. (p. 3)

Perhaps there’ll be something more in their mid-term report, assuming it gets published.