New spinneret can make custom fibres from cellulose

close up of fibre on the spinneret spoolResearchers and technicians in FPInnovations’ biomaterials group have used their know-how and ingenuity to redesign and upgrade a pilot-scale spinneret that is poised to allow for the design of innovative new manufactured fibres on a larger scale.

The spinneret is a modular device used to safely and continuously produce fibres by regenerating dissolved modified cellulose. It is part of FPInnovations’ Next Generation Designer Fibre Facility.

Why the spinneret is unique

It uses a chemically-modified pulp dissolved in an aqueous solution called dope. When used in a wet-spinning process, it regenerates to form a continuous fibre similar to yarn. The process is also more sustainable than other dissolved cellulose practices because it eliminates the use of several chemicals, including carbon disulphide and ionic liquids.

This is how it works: The dope is pumped from a container through the spinneret head, much like a showerhead, and into the first bath where it forms into fibres. Interchangeable spinneret heads have a different number of holes in different sizes and shapes to generate a variety of fibres. From that point on, it passes through a series of other baths before the final product is dried and spun onto a spool.

Innovative uses for the spinneret

There are many uses for the new materials, such as fibres, films and pellets. The new materials can be used in applications that require high absorbency, such as diapers and other hygienic products, as well as for wound care. The types of novel fibres the spinneret may eventually make can also be used in construction and electronic materials, as well as for uses right out of sci-fi novels, such as engineered human-tissue.

For Eric Olivier, senior director of the bioproducts group, “The spinneret is a great achievement for FPInnovations, which turned an outdated device into cutting-edge equipment capable of producing a high-performance, sustainable material that opens the way to tremendous possibilities. But most of all, the key to success lies in the collaboration among our teams who combined their respective expertise to make the most of an existing technology.”

With the pilot-scale spinneret fully operational, it is a step that could eventually enable Canada’s pulp mills to carve out new roles for themselves as the producers of entirely new manufactured fibres for a wide range of uses that are only now being explored.

For more information, please contact Eric Olivier.

The original version of this article was published in the winter edition of Pulp and Paper Canada magazine.

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