Cellulose acetate has a long history. It is a versatile bio-based polymer derived from natural resources offering unique features: biodegradability, excellent transparency in films, good breathability when subjected to moisture vapor, solubility in a wide range of organic solvents, non-food competitivity, ability to absorb and remove low levels of organic chemicals.
Furthermore, it can be found in many everyday products and presents itself as a sustainable choice and responsible approach helping with the reduction of micro-plastics.
Made with nature in mind
Cellulose acetate is an eco-friendly material that is manufactured from cellulose, a natural raw material obtained from well-managed forests that are conscientiously harvested and replanted with future generations in mind.
At Cerdia, this process is carefully optimized towards reducing environmental impact at every stage by recovering and reusing water and energy and limiting the use of chemicals to the very minimum.
Cellulose acetate: Lifecycle & Applications
Lifecycle of cellulose acetate
The lifecycle of cellulose acetate starts and ends in nature: Here the raw material wood pulp is obtained from renewable plant-derived cellulose. After synthesis of the cellulose acetate, it is processed into a variety of different products which then after usage biologically degrade to carbon dioxide and water nourishing plants and trees once again.
Cellulose acetate: Applications
Cellulose acetate’s unique characteristics make it the perfect choice for a wide variety of applications:
- In textiles, it combines a soft and cool texture with naturally high absorptive capacity.
- As filter tow for cigarette filters, it shows good filtration properties with an excellent taste acceptance.
- In pharmaceuticals, it is used as a semipermeable membrane in controlled-release tablets.
- In cosmetics, it can be used in the shape of microbeads providing an alternative to Polyethylene that helps reduce microplastic.
- In membrane technology, where it is used for seawater desalination, purification of drinking water, and wastewater treatment.
- In optical applications, it is used as a protective film in LCD polarizing panels.
- In plastic applications like granules or sheets, it impresses with its characteristics of having no odor, no taste, being non-toxic, and offering a natural soft-touch effect.
Cellulose acetate is soluble in a wide range of organic solvents. The solubility depends on the average degree of substitution, the distribution of substituents along the chain, and the distribution of the primary and secondary alcohol groups a. Please see the table 1 for more details:
Solubility of 2,5 – Cellulose acetate
|Solvent||Good Solubility||Poor Solubility|
|Methyl ethyl ketone||〇|
|Methyl isobutyl ketone||〇|
|Ethylene glycol acetate||〇|
|Aliphaticomatic||Hexane, Heptane, ...||〇|
|Mixtures of Esters & Alcohols||Ethyl acetate / Ethanol, 75/25||〇|
|Ethyl acetate / Ethanol, 50/50||〇|
|Ethyl acetate / Ethanol, 30/70||〇|
Cellulose acetate is biodegradable under a variety of environmental conditions. This includes aerobic and anaerobic conditions, like in marine water, water, soil, industrial compost, home compost and in bio gasification. In this respect, it is superior to most man-made polymers, both petroleum-derived and biobased.
Cellulose acetate consists of the natural polymer cellulose, which has been modified with acetyl groups. Acetyl groups (in red) are common in nature and the enzymes which remove those groups are readily available in microbes.
Due to its modification cellulose acetate shows a different degradation behavior than its natural source the biopolymer cellulose.
Generally, the biodegradation process occurs in the following stepsb:
- microbes (bacteria and fungi) colonize the surface of the material → biofilm formation (F.R. Wurm et al., 2019)c
- enzymes from the microbes attack the material
- material is transformed to CO2 (anaerobe also CH4), water and biomass (+ N2 and salts)
The following external parameters can influence the biodegradation performance:
- general nature of the environment (soil, water, compost, e.g. fewer fungi in water)
- type and number of microbes
- local conditions like humidity, temperature, amount of oxygen, pH, nutrients …
In the case of cellulose acetate, biofilm formation as the first step of the biodegradation process is a crucial factor for degradation (see figure 3 below).
Contact and further information
If you have questions concerning our cellulose acetate grades, want some information material, need some more information regarding the biodegradability of cellulose acetate or would like to order samples please feel free to contact us via the contact form or firstname.lastname@example.org.
a Cellulose acetates: Properties and applications, P. Zugenmeyer, Macromol. Symp. 2004, 208, p. 146.
b New aspects of Cellulose acetate biodegradation, D. Hölter, P. Lapersonne, CORESTA SSPT, Kitzbühel (Austria), 2017.
c F.R. Wurm et al., Plastics of the future? The Impact of Biodegradable Polymers on the environment and on Society, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2019, 58, p. 56-62.