Cellulose is something we have all heard of, usually in connection with paper and trees but there is so much more to this organic compound than that!
First of all, the cellulose molecule (C6H10O5)n is made out of atoms of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen and belongs to the category of polysaccharides. Polysaccharides are a category of carbohydrates, which means that their molecules are connected with glycosidic bonds and, in the context of cellulose, are built in a long linear pattern. Cellulose is usually found in plants and algae and helps them to keep their structure. In the purest form in nature, we can find it in cotton which has over 90% of cellulose! So next time you wear your cotton clothes, you can keep in mind that you are actually wearing the purest form of cellulose found in the plant kingdom on you!
However, we are all aware of the dark sides of cotton production. We can find similarities in papermaking production, where wood is used, which contains in comparison to cotton only about 40-50% cellulose. Not only are more trees needed for the production of paper, but we are also left with a lot of unused material in that process. Wood biomass contains, in addition to cellulose, other elements such as lignin and hemicellulose, which need to be stripped down from the feedstock using harsh chemicals. These cleaning processes are energy intensive and make it questionable whether these materials are sustainable after all. Therefore, the production of cellulose via plants brings up lots of questions in regard to its sustainability.
Cellulose production can also be obtained through fermentation via microorganisms that feed on specific organic material. Either microorganisms are genetically programmed or trained to do this process. Using microorganisms to produce cellulose has the least impact on nature and therefore, makes the production of cellulose more sustainable without the need of cutting down trees or harvesting cotton. It is even possible to use food waste as a feedstock for the microorganisms and helping therefore also the fight against food waste. Nevertheless, it always depends on what cellulose is used and is needed to determine what material should be utilized for the fermentation. While food waste seems like a great option, the cellulose derived from it can never be consistent and might vary in color or other properties each time. Consistency with the material used for fermentation is key to getting the wished properties for the cellulose.
At Cellugy, we are using sucrose as the base for the fermentation to produce pure biofabricated cellulose as an ingredient for personal care applications. This process does not require any harsh chemicals and is energy efficient. Due to its entangled fiber characteristics and unique water interactions, EcoFLEXY’s potential viscosity per dry weight is much higher than typical molecular scale polymers, therefore thickening personal care products at low dosages, and due to its natural origin, is ideal for bio-based and natural formulations. Moreover, EcoFLEXY has extremely high cellulose purity in the fibers due to the absence of hemicelluloses, making the network extremely stable in the presence of salts or other charged compounds that affect plant celluloses. On top of that, Cellugy produces biofabricated cellulose with exceptionally high crystallinity, which allows it to withstand challenging formulations. And more importantly, it provides a fresh skin feeling and nice flow without the tackiness and stickiness of other natural ingredients.
Our aim is not only to make the production of cellulose greener, but with EcoFLEXY we aim at revolutionizing the personal care industry helping companies to reach their sustainability goals. Together we can both protect the people and the planet by starting to make cellulose greener.