These companies are revolutionizing the applications of nanocellulose across industries

These companies are revolutionizing the applications of nanocellulose across industries

By Marija Jovic

Cellulose is the most abundant sustainable and renewable biopolymer on Earth, found in plants, algae, tunicates, and some bacteria. Cellulose is made from two distinct regions of the cellulose material, one that is crystalline and another that is amorphous, from which nanoparticles known as cellulose nanomaterials, or nanocelluloses, can be isolated.

Nanocelluloses are considered to be a class of futuristic materials, and applications where it is seen as a preferred choice of material are growing in industries ranging from paper and adhesives to electronics, health, and personal care products. This is understandable, considering that aside from being a renewable and abundant source, nanocellulose has the possibility to combine a wide range of properties including chemical inertness, excellent stiffness, high strength, low density, dimensional stability, optical transparency, and the ability to modify its surface chemistry.

Overview of the nanocellulose market:

According to a recent market report, the global nanocellulose market was valued at USD $350 million in 2021 and has been forecast to grow to USD $682 million by 2026 at a CAGR of 19.8%

The market is divided in following segments: Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs), cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs), microfibrillated cellulose (MFCs), and bacterial nanocellulose (BNC), where the biggest share of the market is taken by MFCs, followed by CNFs, and then CNCs and BNC.

It is important to note is that there is not a clear and precise definition of different types of nanocelluloses in the market, which is resulting in often mixing and confusing nanocellulose with microfibrillated cellulose, and cellulose nanocrystals with cellulose nanofibers, although each of these types has its own distinct characteristics and properties. Strictly speaking, microfibrillated cellulose shouldn’t really be considered as type of nanocellulose, as it is orders of magnitude bigger and not close to the nano size. 

Still, the drive for sustainability is ramping up the demand for all of the types mentioned above. Nanocellulose applications are driven by demand in the pulp and paper, cement, composites and plastics, pharmaceutical, healthcare, personal care, and electronics sectors.

PreScouter investigated the nanocellulose space to identify companies that are driving the applications and business of nanocellulose. Here, we profile six companies that are at the forefront of the movement to adopt nanocellulose as a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based and other nonrenewable materials across industries.

Cellulose nanocrystals:

Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs), also known as nanocrystalline cellulose, are obtained once the amorphous part of the cellulose material is removed and crystals remain.  They are 5-10 nm in diameter and can go up to 300 nm in length.  They are essentially rigid needles with a strength-to-weight ratio of up to 8 times higher than that of steel.


Based in Montreal, Canada, Anomera manufactures carboxylated cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) through a unique and patented eco-friendly process from sustainably harvested Canadian forests. The material is sold under the trade name DextraCel. 

DextraCel is claimed to have properties that exceed other cellulose nanomaterials on the market. The product is available as a nano-redispersible powder or a liquid suspension. Anomera is currently developing a pilot plant that is planned to produce over 500 tons of DextraCel per year. Applications of DextraCel range from plastics and composites, paints and coatings, cosmetics, and cement, to life sciences and agriculture. Depending on the application, DextraCel can be used to improve the flexural and compressive strength and workabilityof concrete to make lighter, stronger, and longer-lasting materials; to modify rheology, provide barrier properties, and adjust the mechanical properties of paints and coatings; and in the design of intelligent release systems for drug delivery, among others.


Also based in Montreal, Canada, CelluForce is focusing on the development and commercial production of cellulose nanocrystals. The company commercializes a family of CNC products under the brand name CelluForce NCC.

CelluForce NCC exhibits useful properties such as self assembly, strength, a high surface area, and electromagnetic conductivity, among others. The product can serve as a biobased component in adhesives, cement, oil, plastics, nonwovens, electronics, personal and healthcare products, and food and beverages. 

Melodea Ltd:

Based in Rehovot, Israel, Melodea produces cellulose nanocrystals from wood pulp and paper production side streams. Melodea’s biobased CNC product is a lightweight, transparent, durable, and abrasive-resistant material that exhibits both self-assembly and barrier properties. It is highly compatible with water-based systems and is recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable.

Since Melodea’s product can serve as a high-performing oxygen, oil, and water vapor barrier, it is used for packaging and films as well as for paints and coatings, to improve their scratch and abrasion resistance. Melodea’s biobased solutions can also be applied to textile dyeing processes to increase efficiency, lower costs, and reduce waste.

Cellulose nanofibers:

Cellulose nanofibers (CNFs), commonly obtained by mechanical treatment, are flexible and entangling long and wide nanofibers (versus rigid CNCs). They are 20–100 nm in width and up to 10,000 nm in length, forming a gel in solution at very low concentrations.

Sweetwater Energy:

Sweetwater Energy was founded in 2009 from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority funding and developed in collaboration with researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Sweetwater Energy developed and refined a patented biomass pretreatment system with the backing of a wide group of private investors. The company began building their first Sweetwoods commercial-scale facility in 2019.

Sweetwater’s patented technology is called Sunburst. The main idea of the Sunburst technology is to deconstruct plant material such as wood into components that are efficient and clean enough to make products that traditionally rely on petroleum and other nonrenewable sources. 

The company makes many forms of cellulose, including NFC, which is obtained via the Sunburst process as a loosely agglomerated microcrystalline cellulose that is further transformed into nanofibrillated cellulose. 

Sunburst’s fabrication and operating costs are extremely low because the system is based on extrusion, a technology that has been the workhorse of countless industries for decades. 


GranBio was founded in 2011 and has operations in Brazil and the United States. GranBio has developed two patented BioPlus nanocellulose production technologies. According to the company’s website, both processes are demonstrated at the scale of 1/2 tpd at the GranBio Tech Biorefinery in Thomaston, Georgia, USA. They allow for the economical extraction of commercial scale nanocellulose from any biomass with adjustable particle size and composition. The low-cost product is aimed at use for large commodities and typically fiber-based markets such as the cardboard industry.

GranBio Tech is involved in the development of nanocellulose-enhanced products through collaborations with companies in various industries, such as high-barrier plastic packaging and lightweight automotive compounds, tires and rubber products, cosmetics, and cardboard.

Bacterial nanocellulose:

In contrast to cellulose nanocrystals and cellulose nanofibers, bacterial nanocellulose (BNC) is synthesized via a bottom-up approach from cultures of bacteria that synthesize the material.

Axcelon Biopolymers Corporation:

Axcelon Biopolymers Corporation (ABC) is a Canadian company whose emphasis is on producing the BNC-based advanced wound care products Nanoderm and NanodermAg, with the latter having fibers that have silver incorporated into them. Both are made from bacterial nanocellulose as a microfibrillar biosynthetic cellulose film for a one-time single application wound care product that simulates fibrin to help promote faster wound healing.

The pore size created by the microfibrils and ribbons of Nanoderm’s paper-thin membrane trap platelets and initiate coagulation, bringing about both haemostasis and adherence to the wound surface. The greater absorptive capacity of the membrane and its porous nature allow for the dissipation of exudate while maintaining a moist wound interface. Nanoderm also acts as a regenerative tissue scaffold, and the tensile strength of the material allows it to remain in place for longer periods with little need for dressing change.

This article is based largely on the Intelligence Brief  Startups Developing Nanocellulose Products in 2020. Access the full report here.

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