February 22, 2017  
FormMaster and OptiFiner Pro at Hankuk Paper Read the Valmet article
    Share this page ·  www.tappi.org

·  Subscribe to Ahead of the Curve

·  Newsletters

·  Ahead of the Curve archived issues

·  Contact the Editor


Celluforce’s Sebastien Corbeil on commercializing nanotech

What is CNC?

Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer on Earth, and is the main component of the cell structures of trees and plants. The structure of cellulose is very ordered by nature, and very strong. Wood has a cellulose content of about 40 to 50 percent.

The CelluForce website explains that cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) have several notable chemical, optical and electrical properties:

  • Their size, shape and charge lead to unique behavior in solutions.
  • The high chemical reactivity of the surface1 makes CNC customizable for various applications.
  • Their heat stability allows high temperature applications.

According to the website, the CelluForce process begins with wood pulp produced from FSC-certified sources. “The pulp undergoes a reaction process that removes the amorphous components, leaving high purity cellulose crystals intact. These crystals are then separated, cleaned and dried to form a powder material for shipment. CelluForce recycles the chemicals used in the production process, and converts sugars into energy, for reuse in the system. Our patented technology allows the final spray-dried product to be easily dispersed at the end user location, leading to significant savings in the cost of storage and transportation.”

As president and CEO of CelluForce—the world leader in the development and production of cellulose nanocrystals (CNC)—Sebastien Corbeil has an expert perspective on commercializing nanotechnology in the pulp and paper industry. Corbeil has more than 20 years of international business experience; he holds an MBA from DePaul University and a M. Eng in Chemical Engineering from McGill University. CelluForce was founded in 2012 with the mission to commercialize cellulose nanocrystals; Corbeil joined in April, 2015. Current company shareholders are Domtar, FPInnovations, Schlumberger and Fibria.

Corbeil is one of three keynote presenters selected to speak at TAPPI’s International Conference on Nanotechnology for Renewable Materials—or TAPPI Nano. Now in its 12th year, TAPPI Nano provides a unique forum combining an exceptional technical program with networking opportunities for participants working in research, development, and deployment of renewable nanomaterials. The 2017 conference will be held June 5-8, 2017 in Montreal, QC. Following is an exclusive interview with Corbeil conducted by Jack Miller, author of Nanocellulose: Technology Applications and Markets.

MILLER: Thank you, Sebastien for speaking with us today. Please tell us a little bit about CelluForce. You had some big news toward the end of last year, correct?

Corbeil: Thank you. CelluForce was the first company to market cellulose nanocrystals under the CelluForce NCC trademark, and we remain the global leader in this field with a production capacity of 300 metric tons per year. We have a great team of people that has recently been expanded in sales and technical development.

Yes, our partnership with Fibria was indeed big news and we are very happy to have them on board as a strategic shareholder. Originally, CelluForce was a 50/50 joint venture between Domtar and FPInnovations. Schlumberger joined as an equity partner in March, 2015 and Fibria is the second company aside from the founders to invest in CelluForce as announced in November, 2016.

Other than the investment of capital, what does Fibria bring to the partnership?
Several things. First, it opens up a distribution channel for Latin America, giving us access to a much wider market and a great partner to build a plant in Brazil when demand grows. It also adds to our research capabilities for the development of new applications.

What will be the focus of your keynote speech at TAPPI Nano?
I will be talking about key learnings in our nanocellulose commercialization journey and give an overview of where we are heading as a company. I think 2017 should be a pivotal year for us, with new applications reaching commercial status. To that point, I’m happy to report that 2016 was our best year yet in terms of sales. We’re seeing rising interest with a number of industrial players that have started trialing CelluForce NCC with increasing order volumes. I should be able to say a bit more about these during my speech in June.

Why can’t you tell us more now?

Sebastien Corbeil

In most cases, commercial applications in development need to remain confidential until they become truly commercial; it is really up to our industrial partners to make these announcements. It is important to realize it takes a long time to develop new products because our material needs to make it through the entire value chain before it reaches the end-customer. Our own customers also need to commercialize and sell their new CNC-based products in their own market and sometimes there is more than one step in the chain!

I can tell you that we are working on several such applications with Schlumberger and have conducted full-scale pre-commercial trials. We hope Schlumberger will make at least one of these applications fully commercial in 2017.

What needs to be done to accelerate the growth in nanotechnology innovation?
We need more industrially-driven research. There’s a lot of good scientific research, but we need more applications development work focused on assessing and tailoring products to meet all industrial specifications. To do this, we need more industrial partners involved in applications development. I understand more users will be present at the 2017 TAPPI Nano conference. This is excellent news.

Any other key points you’ll be making in the keynote?
Again, we’re at a turning point and 2017 will be very important for us with the increase in sales volume. As with any projection, there is still uncertainty but we are finding that the more our customers use the material, the more they learn how to use it, the more they are ordering. There are lots of positive signals in the uptake of demand and I hope some of our customers will be able to announce that they now are selling CNC-based products or formulations in 2017.

Thank you. We look forward to hearing your talk.
You’re welcome. We look forward to seeing you in Montreal in June.

About the conference: TAPPI’s 2017 International Conference on Nanotechnology for Renewable Materials will be held June 5-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Montreal in Montreal, QC. For program information, registration, and more, visit conference.tappinano.org.

The conference is planned by TAPPI’s International Nanotechnology Division (tappinano.org.) The group’s mission is to serve as the leading global forum for the community of individuals, organizations and institutions seeking to collectively advance the use of nanotechnology within the forest products industry, and support the development, production and use of industry renewable or sustainable nanomaterials for all industries.

About the author:
Jack Miller is founder and principal consultant, Market-Intell LLC, and the author of Nanocellulose: Technology Applications and Markets, an extensive market study published by RISI in 2014. A different portion of this interview will appear in the May/June issue of


For a modest investment of $174, receive more than US$ 1000 in benefits in return.
Visit www.tappi.org/join for more details.