In Japan, Chuetsu Pulp & Paper Co. is planning commercial production of cellulose nanofiber from bamboo at its Sendai, Stasuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture facility. The 100 tons per year plant is expected to begin operations in June.
Chuetsu’s CNF is five times stronger than steel but a fraction of the weight, and is about 10 nanometers thick. The material can be produced from many plants, but bamboo-based CNF is more compatible for creating composites with plastics and resins.
Using bamboo also helps address the damage bamboo thickets are inflicting on the nation’s forests. The fast-growing plant blocks sunshine, killing other plants and loosing soil. Chuetsu had already been using bamboo to make paper, in an effort to curb bamboo overgrowth.
The commercial viability of bamboo-based CNF production remains a challenge, however.
“To prevent further expansion of bamboo thickets, there is no choice but to put the commercial use (of bamboo) on the track to success,” Shigeo Suzuki, an ecological geography lecturer at Rissho University, tells The Asahi Shimbun.