ANDRITZ AaltoCell™ MCC technology
Value-added bio-products from the pulp mill
Micro-crystalline cellulose – or MCC for short – is widely used for many purposes in a variety of industries, from the automotive industry’s use in composites and plastics to cosmetic and pharmaceutical additives. To date, the production of microcrystalline cellulose has been limited to relatively small, separate production plants. ANDRITZ AaltoCell™ technology allows cost-effective high-capacity production, with remarkable synergy benefits when the MCC plant is integrated into a pulp mill.
Microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) is purified, partially depolymerized cellulose obtained by treating alpha cellulose with mineral acids. It was originally developed in the 1950s in a search for a stronger rayon thread. Unfortunately, high production costs have restricted its use for decades, and although it is widely used in many applications in a variety of industries, the high cost is still a significant hindrance for potential users.
The AaltoCell™ method was developed at Aalto University, and ANDRITZ and Aalto University have agreed on cooperation to commercialize the AaltoCell™ technology for the global market. Compared to traditional methods, the AaltoCell™ method consumes significantly less acids, produces much less waste, and the reaction occurs at a much faster rate. This keeps the costs at a much lower level and makes large-scale production practicable.
|Reaction time||10–60 min.||Hours|
|Need for neutralizing agent||Low||High|
|Hydrolysate recovery||Yes (if integrated)||No|
Pulp mill integration
A unique capability of the ANDRITZ AaltoCell™ technology is the ability to be integrated into an existing pulp mill. With the synergy advantages offered by this type of integration, high production capacities are possible with low capital and operational expenses. The raw material can be either dissolving or paper-grade pulp. The technology also makes it possible to produce special MCC varieties from unbleached pulp – so called “brown MCC” – which was not feasible previously.
Integrating the technology into a pulp mill provides a platform that is self-sufficient in energy, unlike the previous production processes, and the by-products generated can be used to produce other bio-based chemicals such as different sugars and ethanol. The remaining waste water can then be re-used in pulp production or directed to the pulp mill chemical recovery process.
New market opportunities
Currently, MCC is mainly used in pharmaceutical applications, such as adhesives and filler agents for tablets, and also as a rheology modifier, fiber source, and bulk agent in food applications. In industrial applications, it is used in paint rheology modifiers, oil drilling aid agents, and in cosmetics. With the low production costs and high capacities made possible by ANDRITZ AaltoCell™ technology, it is expected that new markets for MCC will open up where the high costs associated with previous production methods made it unviable.