CNF (Cellulose Nanofiber) Market in Japan: Key Research Findings 2018

Yano Research Institute (the President, Takashi Mizukoshi) has conducted a survey on the CNF (cellulose nanofiber) market for 2018 and has found out the market trends, trends of the market players, and the future outlook.

Figure . Forecast of Domestic CNF Market Size
Figure . Forecast of Domestic CNF Market Size

Market Overview

CNF or cellulose nanofiber is the material made of core structure of plant cells defibrated to nano level. It has the following characteristics: the weight is 1/5 of that of iron but five times stronger than iron; Specific surface area is large; has dimensional stability due to less thermal deformation; derived from plants; and has gas barrier property (gas impermeable). Mass manufacturing of CNF had not started until mid2017.  From 2015 to earlier 2017, CNF makers had produced the material in small laboratories or at pilot plants and had supplied the sample products to limited number of users (demanders).  Therefore, the volume of the products produced had been limited, most of which were introduced into daily commodities rather than those industries and products that require stable volume of supplies, i.e., automobiles, electronics, chemicals, medical and cosmetic products.  At that time, CNF was at the preparatory phase before put into practical use.

In 2017, some paper or chemical manufacturers launched the mass-manufacturing plants in a series, aiming to commercially produce CNF by means of those methods such as TEMPO-mediated oxidation, ACC, and “Kyoto process (an integrated manufacturing process)”.  This enabled the production capacity of mass-manufacturing plants of CNF to reach 700 tons (in terms of solid contents) as of yearend of 2017.  In addition, many makers have come to possess pilot plants capable to produce from around 10 to 100 tons of CNF per year, which encouraged pilot projects of CNF for extensive users to be in progress in 2017 and beyond.  There were some cases where such pilot-project CNF was adopted as a material of the products at user companies.  As each CNF maker has been able to produce a certain volume of products at a time, enough volume of CNF has come to be supplied.  Now CNF has become the candidate or under consideration for introduction at extensive areas.

Therefore, the domestic cellulose nanofiber market in 2017 attained 20tons in shipment volume and 400 million yen in shipment value both at manufacturers.  The market in 2018 is likely to attain 50 to 60 tons in shipment volume and 500 to 600 million yen in shipment value.

Noteworthy Topics

Currently, adoption of CNF to existing marketed products is limited, but many attempts of testing and prototyping have been conducted with CNF user companies, on the premise of CNF introduced into actual products.

Introduction of CNF is particularly promising in the area of automobiles.  In the domestic as well as overseas exhibitions held from 2017 to 2018, automotive door trims, intake manifolds, trunk lids, and bonnets using CNF composite resin were demonstrated one after another.  However, all those are currently in the prototyping phase so that the challenges such as best-matching resins with CNF, the easiest way to compound, the performance and formability of composite resins, and cost are yet to be improved.  The development of powder grade for resin compound, master batch to compound CNF via “Kyoto process” has been underway at each maker.  Commercial production has partly started since the beginning of 2018.

Other than automobiles, an example of CNF being introduced to existing products can be midsole material of high-function running shoes by a total sports goods maker.  In detail, the foam of special polymer that contains CNF was introduced as midsole of running shoes.  With regard to application in functional additives such as thickeners and dispersant, the performance of CNF as a material of cosmetic products has been globally recognized, which has pressed ahead with pilot projects of CNF for cosmetic makers in and out of the country.

Research Outline

1.Research Period: From April to June, 2018
2.Research Object: cellulose nanofiber makers (paper makers, chemical makers, etc.)
3.Research Methogology: Face-to-face interviews by the expert researchers, and literature research

What is CNF or cellulose nanofiber?

Cellulose nanofiber (hereinafter CNF) is cellulose fiber included in pulp or wooden chips defibrated into nano size.  There are mainly three methods to extract CNF from cellulose fiber included in plants: Chemical method where hydrogen bond of molecular chains are loosen via catalyst or acid before putting them into a grinder; Mechanical method where high-pressure homogenizers are used to delaminate the cell walls of the fibers and liberate the nanosized fibrils; and water collision method where nanofiber is obtained through cellulose-dispersed liquid collided with kinetic energy of water at high speed.  According to three types of method, CNF is categorized into three types.

Published Report

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