Published December 2015
Cellulose acetate (CA) can mean anything from minimally substituted cellulose monoacetate (CMA) to fully substituted cellulose triacetate (CTA), where the degree of substitution is a control variable for specific properties. While current market trends favor specific products, preferences shift as market niches change. These trends alternate between growth and replacement dating back to when the concept was first generated back in the 1860s. However, cellulose acetate did not achieve commercial application until the early 1900s. Early on, CA found a market in textiles and yarns, but subsequently it was largely replaced by other materials. CA also found a market as safety film to replace cellulose nitrate as a less flammable material, but in that market too, it has largely been replaced by other materials. A current major market for CA is filter tow, which is used to make cigarette filters. However, that market is slowly declining in Western countries, and growing slowly but facing competition in Third World countries. The newest niche market uses CTA for LCD display screens, which appears to be one of the few growth areas but seems to belong mainly to Daicel Chemical Industries Ltd. in Japan at the moment.
While much cellulose acetate technology tends to be dated, the product seems to keep finding niche applications. CA tends to be a higher-cost polymer, so it may lose the niche after finding one, but CA is still around. Since the Process Economics Program (PEP) has never evaluated the process technology for cellulose acetate, this review addresses that omission.