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.
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.