Nanocellulose material for science, medizine, and technics

As the most important skeletal component in plants, the polysaccharide cellulose is an almost inexhaustible polymer raw material with a fascinating structure and property potential. Formed by the repeated connection of D-glucose building blocks, the highly functionalized, linear stiff-chain homopolymer cellulose is characterized by its hydrophilicity, chirality, biodegradability, broad chemical modifying capacity, and its formation of versatile semicrystalline fiber morphologies. The biosynthesis of cellulose takes place not only in plants, but also in bacteria. This bacterial cellulose differs clearly from cellulose of plant origin.

With the worldwide strong expanding interdisciplinary research and product development in the field of cellulose in mind POLYMET Jena is active on the current state of knowledge on structure and chemistry of cellulose as well as its application in science, technology, and medicine. Polymeric materials of this kind gain broad application in the field of new materials and in medicine because of advanced possibilities regarding the design of molecular and supramolecular structures as well as their analysis.

The focus area of bacterial synthesized nanocellulose makes an important contribution to the development of new biomaterials.


shaped body of BNC-hydrogel - 1% cellulose, 99% water
shaped body of BNC-hydrogel - 1% cellulose, 99% water
image of a freece-dried BNC network by means of scanning electron microscopy
image of a freece-dried BNC network by means of scanning electron microscopy
image of a never-dried BNC network by means of laser scanning microscopy
image of a never-dried BNC network by means of laser scanning microscopy

Bacterial nanocellulose (BNC)

The combination of the valuable properties of cellulose with the characteristics of nanoscale materials imparts BNC a specific and unique property profile.

  • ultrapure homopolymer
  • 1% nanocellulose is able to bind 99% water as a dimensionally stable hydrogel
  • mechanical properties of the single fibers correspond to steal and Kevlar
  • microscopic investigations show the three-dimensional hierarchically constructed fiber network, similar to endogenous tissue, e.g. collagen
  • nanofiber network is permeable for liquids, ions, and small molecules, furthermore its water supply can be regulated by partially drying
  • biocompatible and can be colonized by cells

In contrast to plant cellulose, mainly isolated from wood, BNC is synthesized from glucose by a biotechnological process with the help of acetic acid bacteria. Therefore, the biofabrication can be directly controlled, regarding both product shape and properties-determining structure. So BNC films, spherical particles, and hollow bodies of nearly any dimension can be produced. From these hydrogels aerogels, organogels, and xerogels are available. Besides these shaped bodies BNC can be achieved in form of fiber suspensions and nonwovens.