Cellulose Acetate is a non-petroleum-based plastic, manufactured from purified natural cellulose. It is a transparent, amorphous, glossy and reasonably hard thermoplastic. The properties include good clarity, moderate UV stability and chemical resistance and the material is broadly considered biodegradable.
Since it is made from natural and renewable raw materials, it is both industrially and home compostable, a characteristic that paves the way for sustainable applications in many industries.
What is Cellulose Acetate made from?
Natural cellulose for Cellulose Acetate is derived mainly from two sources–wood pulp and cotton fibres. These raw materials are processed using either acetic anhydride or acetic acid and sulfuric acid to yield the Acetate. This resulting material is tough, but easy to process, has excellent aesthetic possibilities, and possesses little to no odor. Plasticisers may be added to the material, or mixed esters created which have greater flexibility, moisture resistance and toughness than the original.
Is Cellulose Acetate harmful?
It is not known to have any toxicity and can therefore be used in a number of contact applications such as for food and clothing.
What is Cellulose Acetate used for?
It is being used across industries in a variety of formats–as thin films, as a decorative rigid material and as a fibre. Cellulose acetate safety film was first introduced as a replacement for flammable celluloid in photography. Today, the film continues to be used in optical applications such as 3D spectacles and polarised sunglasses.
As a film, the applications range from the minute to the massive: from the aglets on shoelaces, to food and drug packaging. The good permeability and bio-compatibility of the material has also ensured its place in pharmaceutical products, for applications such as controlled drug release. As a fibre, or fabric, often known as Rayon or Acetate, the material is used for clothing, draperies, upholsteryand filters.
Cellulose Acetate in Art, Design and Products
One of the most aesthetically appealing and versatile formats of Cellulose Acetate are decorative sheets. These sheets are created by colouring, combining and sandwiching multiple layers of Cellulose Acetate. Complex patterns and creative effects can be generated via this process. In this way, the material offers a wide range of possibilities for transparency, rich colours, and finishes. These sheets are used in applications such as eyewear, jewellery and fashion accessories. For eyewear, especially, the sheets are used extensively, motivated by the brittleness and other challenges of previously used plastics. Here, large blocks of layered Cellulose Acetate are used, from which individual shapes are sliced, and then polished. The biodegradability and recyclability of the material is another motivator for its use in consumer goods such as this.
Since the material is easy to work with and is contact safe, artists and designers have turned to Cellulose Acetate in its various formats to create transparent, beautifully-shaped sculptures, decorative homeware and even toys. Among the most well-known examples are the sculptures of artist Naum Gabo, and Lego blocks, which were made with the material until the 1960s.
Cellulose acetate film in Food Packaging
There are a number properties that make Cellulose Acetate film suitable for food packaging. It has exceptional clarity, low haze, and is easy to cut and tear. It offers high moisture vapour transmission but extremely low water permeability, and it is also resistance to weak acids, hydrocarbons, vegetable oils etc. These factors ensure that it is both safe and fitting for food packaging applications. The biodegradability of the material makes its widespread use and disposal more environmentally friendly than other plastic counterparts as well.
View more information about this material in our Green Production brochure: https://resources.materialshub.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Green-Production-Recycled-Brochure.pdf
Alternatively, view our Green materials on Materials Hub.
* This product is part of the Green Production range.