We begin with the hypothesis that wood-based cellulosic nanotechnology can be developed in ways that are safe for people and the planet. That said, we will let science serve as the foundation to confirm or reject that hypothesis. The initial focus will be to assist in and oversee the expeditious development of commercial production of cellulosic nanomaterial in the US by:
Identifying and prioritizing critical business and technical barriers;
Determining the resulting technical, economic, engineering, material property, applications, materials standards, and environment, health and safety information gaps that arise from these critical barriers; and,
Bringing together the needed resources from government, industry and academia to generate the information required to overcome these critical barriers.
The governance structure of this partnership will:
Facilitate bringing together key partners from the private sector (e.g. producers, converters, and end users), government entities, and academia;
Assemble a critical mass of resources necessary to achieve our stated objectives; and,
Efficiently and effectively manage resources and monitor progress in a transparent manner.
Key governance elements of the partnership are:
Steering Committee. P3Nano will have a Steering Committee made up of one representative from each financially participating organization. The Steering Committee has responsibility for managing the overall program of work, allocating resources, assessing progress, and making mid-course corrections as needed.
Science Advisory Committee (SAC). The Steering Committee will select scientific experts to advise P3Nano. SAC members will provide advice and counsel to the Steering Committee and help assess the scientific merit and outcomes of partnership investments.
Sustainability Committee. The Sustainability Committee will be made up of a wide-range of stakeholders with interests in the social, environmental and economic aspects of work by P3Nano. The Sustainability Committee will provide input to the Steering Committee.
Cellulose nanomaterial is an innovative nanoscale material that is abundant, renewable, and sustainable and originates from natural resources. These materials have unique properties with broad application potential as platform materials in multiple market sectors and products such as: packaging, automotive components, paper and paperboard, cement, polymer composites, medical applications, defense applications, electronics, aircraft components and rheology modifiers, to name a few. Cellulosic nanomaterial has exceptional strength and is considerably lighter weight compared to many other competing materials. Cellulose nanomaterial is expected to be lower cost than most nanomaterial and have piezoelectric, photonic, and self-assembly properties. There are two main types of cellulosic nanomaterial ─ Cellulose Nanocrystals (CNC) and Cellulose Nanofibrils (CNF). CNCs are most often produced by acid hydrolysis of pulp and CNFs are produced by mechanical and chemical/biomechanical means.
A Path Forward
The Steering Committee will conduct a process to engage the Science Committee to identify and prioritize critical business and technical barriers; identify additional information gaps arising from those business and technical barriers; and refine currently identified information gaps. For example production of cellulose nanomaterials at scales of 50 tons per day do not appear to an obstacle while production at 500 – 1,000 tons per day is currently an obstacle. Applications research is needed to create demand along with techno-economic costs for commercial scale production and use. A business case and engineering study for production of cellulosic nanomaterial needs to be developed and vetted. Some other specific information gaps include:
Potential users and producers need to understand cost at scale to make investments.
How to successfully draw fibers that enables spinning and weaving for reinforcing mats used in standard lay-up epoxies.
Blending the material in resins to develop fiber reinforced composites.
With constrained resources, P3Nanofunded work shall be focused on closing the preceding information gaps and priority areas that show the most promise and potential for rapid commercial use.