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【METI Mobile】Super-strong wood fiber bears ¥1tn ($8.5bn) market potential

Photograph: Close-up of wood fiber

Dating from the 7th century, Horyu Temple (Horyuji) in Nara contains some of the world’s oldest wooden structures. Its enduring strength and resilience come from a fiber within the wood, called cellulose.

Finer than human hair
Cellulose fiber extracted from wood, cellulose nanofiber (CNF), is only a few nanometers in diameter — 100 times finer than a human hair, and has numerous potential uses.
Alternative to carbon fiber
CNF is similar to carbon fiber, a light and strong material used in everything from aircraft parts to golf clubs. While Japan leads the world in carbon fiber production, it is expensive to make. If CNF can be extracted at lower cost, it has potential to become another revolutionary Japanese innovation.
Part to play in auto industry
Photograph: Plastic film containing CNF
CNF is five times stronger than steel and holds many advantages over carbon fiber. For example, the ultrathin nanofiber remains transparent even after mixing with plastic. Also, CNF does not expand or contract with heat, so has great potential for use in automobile parts.
Cost cuts, tech advances key to unlocking potential
Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) estimates the domestic CNF market will be worth 1 trillion yen ($8.5bn) annually by 2030 as technology advances and manufacturing costs fall. METI will encourage proactive cooperation between research and development teams, industry, academia, and government to realize the potential of low-cost CNF technology.
 
Last updated: 2016-01-22
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
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