CNF (Cellulose Nanofiber) Market in Japan: Key Research Findings 2020

Yano Research Institute (the President, Takashi Mizukoshi) has conducted a survey on the global CNF (cellulose nanofiber) market for 2020 and has found out the market trends, trends of market players, and future outlook. This paper clarifies the global production volume and shipment forecasts of CNF for 2025 and 2030.

Forecast of Global CNF Market Size
Forecast of Global CNF Market Size

Market Overview

CNFs or cellulose nanofibers are the material made of core structure of plant cells defibrated to nano level, which are characterized as follows: 1/5 of weight of iron but five times stronger; Large specific surface area; Dimensional stability due to less thermal deformation; Derived from plants and ; Gas barrier property (gas impermeable).

At the beginning of commercialization of CNFs, i.e., from 2015 to 2016, the makers had produced the material in small laboratories or at pilot plants and had supplied the sample products to a limited number of users (demanders). Therefore, the volume of the products produced had been limited. Since 2017, mass production started at major companies including Nippon Paper Industries Co., Ltd., Chuetsu Pulp & Paper Co., Ltd., Seiko PMC Corporation, while semi-commercial plants including Oji Holdings Corporation and Daio Paper Corporation started their operations. Now that CNFs have started being used in commercial products such as in sports shoes, cosmetics and foods, the global production volume of CNFs in 2020 is projected to attain 57 tons or 6,840 million yen in shipment value.

However, many of CNFs currently adopted are those used as a functional additive occupying only 1% or so of weight ratio (wt%) of the whole product. For CNFs to be mass consumed, it is indispensable to expand the applications of epoxy-cellulose nanofiber composites with the weight ratio of CNFs occupying 10 to 30% of the whole product, as well as to develop molded products made 100% of CNFs. To encourage these, pilot projects of CNFs are underway. Especially, the applications of epoxy-cellulose nanofiber composites to automobile components are most promising, from the viewpoint of the market size and effectiveness to appeal the lightness of CNFs.

Noteworthy Topics

CNF Market at Transition from Application Development to Demand Expansion

here are three types of applications for CNFs: 1) epoxy-cellulose nanofiber composites, 2) functional additives, and 3) others.

While the methods to extract CNFs are largely categorized into chemical disintegration and mechanical isolation, the characteristics difference of each extraction method had prevented such CNFs for the same purpose of epoxy composites from competing each other by the difference of how they were obtained. In other words, applications of CNFs had differed by how CNFs were obtained. However, the recent following cases show that such differentiation of applications by the extraction method of CNFs has become disrupted: CNFs obtained by the chemical disintegration method that had mainly been used for functional additives have recently been upgraded and some started being used for epoxy-cellulose nanofiber composites which require relatively large fiber diameters; and CNFs with high transparency have been developed for functional additives obtained through the mechanical disintegration method. As competition among CNFs that differ by the extraction method is expected to increase in terms of application development and market exploration, CNF makers are required to find out how to appeal the advantages of adopting their in-house CNFs to the user companies (demanders).

Future Outlook

As development and pilot projects of CNFs are underway, the advantages of CNFs when included in composite resins, such as lightness in weight and environmental superiority over other competitive materials have become more obvious, and there has been a sign of some solutions for the challenges of CNFs caused by their characteristics. Therefore, it seems that the “pilot” period of CNFs has finished and is about to enter the period to grope for demand expansion and implementation. Although the employment of CNFs is still limited to small number of commercial products and to small portions, one optimal application may lead to encourage other applications one after another, expanding the implementation of CNFs.

By finding out the challenges and demands at user companies, such as required functions, lightweight, and environmental friendliness, CNF makers are needed to indicate the advantages of adopting CNFs. Application development is extremely difficult for the material businesses, but they are required to meet or even exceed the expectation at the users by evolving constantly and by adding new values and views to their existing findings. By implementing such conditions, the global production volume of CNF is expected to reach 3,500 tons or 20,500 million yen by shipment value.

Research Outline

1.Research Period: January to March 2020
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

CNFs or cellulose nanofibers

Cellulose nanofibers (hereinafter Face-to-face interviews by the expert researchers, and literature research CNFs) are cellulose fibers included in pulp or wooden chips defibrated into nano size.  There are mainly three methods to extract CNFs from cellulose fiber included in plants: Chemical disintegration method where hydrogen bond of molecular chains are loosen via catalyst or acid before putting them into a grinder; and Mechanical disintegration methods which can be categorized again into the method using high-pressure homogenizers for delaminating 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. 

<Products and Services in the Market>

Cellulose nanofiber (CNF), products that are using CNF as an additive agent or as a reinforcement

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