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Who We Are

Chief Scientific Officer - Rajai Atalla, Ph.D.

The Chief Scientific Officer of CSI, who has 40 years of experience in research on lignocellulosic substances, has pioneered the application of Raman spectroscopy and Solid State 13C NMR spectroscopy for characterizing the molecular organization of celluloses, both in their native states and after modification by traditional industrial processes. He and his collaborators have also pioneered the application of Raman spectroscopy to the study of native lignins.  He has served as a consultant to many companies in the forest products and cellulosics industries.  He has also undertaken research under contract for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and has served as a member of working groups for the US Department of energy.  After a period as a research engineer in the private sector he served as Professor of Engineering and Chemical Physics and as Principal Scientist at the Institute of Paper Chemistry during its tenure in Appleton, Wisconsin.  In 1989 he became Head of Chemistry and Pulping Research at the USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin and Adjunct Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  In 2007 he established CSI to undertake research under contract with NREL and to begin development of the CSI process on the basis of the results of investigations he had earlier undertaken concerning structural transformations in cellulose.

In the course of studies in the 1970s he developed methods for creating high degrees of decrystallization and disorder in celluloses, whether in their native state or as commercially available pulps. These decrystallized states are much less resistant to disassembly by enzymes or acid.  In 2007 these processes were adapted for producing monosaccharides from cell wall polysaccharides, while simultaneously extracting a wide range of phytochemicals from the plant biomass.

President - Rowan Atalla

Joining Cellulose Sciences International in January of 2009, Mr Atalla has served as the President and Chief Operating Officer for the last 5 years. He oversees business arrangements and day to day operation of the lab. Mr Atalla is responsible for all vendor and service provider relationships, as well as the implementation of CSI’s pilot scale facility plans.  Rowan is a cum laude graduate of Lawrence University, receiving his BA in Theatre in 1992. After spending several seasons working as a stage electrician and carpenter, Mr Atalla moved from professional theatre into the field of software development.

Mr Atalla has worked for 18 years in software development, including time spent in the roles of independent developer, graphics production specialist, team manager, project leader, and executive. He has worked with teams as small as 2 and as large as 40 people. He has substantial experience in business administration, team management, and project planning and management. As a software developer, Mr Atalla also has substantial experience with information systems, both with hardware and software.

His substantial expertise with computer graphics systems is now being applied to Raman spectroscopy, and the operations, troubleshooting, and data collection from CSI’s new Horiba XploRA Raman Microprobe. Additionally, Mr Atalla is able to apply his practical experience with technical systems and business administration to the day-to-day lab operations and administrative needs of Cellulose Sciences International.

About CSI


Cellulose Sciences International (CSI) was established in 2007.  Its Mission is to develop innovative methods for the utilization of both celluloses and lignocellulosics, on the basis of new paradigms in both arenas established over the last four decades.  Focus on the new paradigms has enabled CSI to create a new process that transforms celluloses and lignocellulosics into nanoporous forms.  The novel process opens up multiple opportunities.  

CSI is concentrating on two key areas.  The first is advancing technologies of well established industries based on utilization of celluloses such as the pulp and paper industry and the dissolving pulp industry.  The second is adding value to agricultural residues by making them more readily digested by ruminant animals and by enabling enzymatic conversion to monosaccharides for the production of biofuels and biobased chemicals.

CSI’s Innovative Technology: Nanoporous cellulose and lignocelluloses

CSI’s innovative technology makes possible transformation of native celluloses into a previously unknown nanoporous form.  Its industrial value arises because the transformation can be accomplished with simple chemicals at ambient temperature and pressure.  Thus both operating and capital costs are significantly below other technologies usually used to process celluloses and lignocellulosics.

Native fibers are unchanged at the macroscale and microscale yet are more accessible to enzymes and reagents at the nanoscale. Enhanced accessibility is indicated by a blue coloration similar to starch when iodine stain is applied and by substantial increases in rates of hydrolysis by cellulases. In addition, the change in molecular aggregation at the nanoscale makes cellulosic fibers more elastic so they can enhance performance in many papermaking applications. 

The Process

Transformation into nanoporous form is accomplished by treatment with NaOH dissolved in a co-solvent that is 75% ethanol-25% water at ambient temperature and pressure.

Cellulose fibers treated by the CSI process retain their character at the macroscale and the microscale but at the nanoscale level their molecular aggregation is modified.  They become nanoporous and elastic.

When agricultural residues are treated via the CSI process they become nanoporous but the transformation is also accompanied by partial removal of lignins.  Thus the two primary barriers to enzymatic hydrolysis are eliminated.

A major advantage of the CSI process is that its results can be achieved by operation at ambient temperature and pressure.  Thus there is no need for the use of pressure vessels or elevated temperature.  The capital investment for implementation is significantly lower than for other pretreatment technologies and the energy requirement is much less than most methods used for processing lignocellulosics.