Production of Microfibrillated Cellulose from Fast-Growing Poplar and Olive Tree Pruning by Physical Pretreatment
Motivated by the negative impact of fossil fuel consumption on the environment, the need arises to produce materials and energy from renewable sources. Cellulose, the main biopolymer on Earth, plays a key role in this context, serving as a platform for the development of biofuels, chemicals and novel materials. Among the latter, micro- and nanocellulose have been receiving increasing attention in the last few years. Their many attractive properties, i.e., thermal stability, high mechanical resistance, barrier properties, lightweight, optical transparency and ease of chemical modification, allow their use in a wide range of applications, such as paper or polymer reinforcement, packaging, construction, membranes, bioplastics, bioengineering, optics and electronics. In view of the increasing demand for traditional wood pulp (e.g., obtained from eucalypt, birch, pine, spruce) for micro/nanocellulose production, dedicated crops and agricultural residues can be interesting as raw materials for this purpose. This work aims at achieving microfibrillated cellulose production from fast-growing poplar and olive tree pruning using physical pretreatment (PFI refining) before the microfibrillation stage. Both raw materials yielded microfibrillated cellulose with similar properties to that obtained from a commercial industrial eucalypt pulp, producing films with high mechanical properties and low wettability. According to these properties, different applications for cellulose microfibers suspensions and films are discussed.