Final Report: Manufacturing Design of Bio-based Ceiling Tiles using Nanocellulose

EPA Contract Number: EPD17012
Title: Manufacturing Design of Bio-based Ceiling Tiles using Nanocellulose
Investigators: Yildirim, Nadir
Small Business: Revolution Research, Inc. (RRI)
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: I
Project Period: November 1, 2016 through April 30, 2017
Project Amount: $100,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2016) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Building Materials


Suspended ceilings are used in a variety of applications, most commonly in public and commercial buildings such as offices, schools, retail stores, and hospitals, because they offer flexibility and easy access to utilities. Suspended ceiling tiles vary considerably in composition, price, and quality; however, most of the tiles are not durable, sag and/or stain when exposed to moisture, may off-gas hazardous compounds, release airborne particles that are hazardous to health when broken or cut, and promote mold growth through moisture retention. With few exceptions, damaged tiles are not fully compostable and therefore must be landfilled for disposal.

Many tiles on the market contain materials that pose significant human health risks either through release of airborne particles or the toxicity of chemical used in the content. The global ceiling tile market is dominated by products containing mineral fibers such as slag wool, man-made vitreous (silicate) fibers and/or stone wool, expanded perlite clay (kaolin), or recycled paper in a starch binder. The second most widely-used tiles contain gypsum. Some tiles contain fiberglass, which is intended to increase their insulation properties. Formaldehyde is also used as a binding agent in most of the tiles containing mineral fiber, fiberglass, medium density fiberboard (MDF), or non-wet formed perlite. Polystyrene is used in other tiles. The building block of polystyrene is styrene, a possible human carcinogen. In addition, the manufacture of polystyrene has been shown to release 57 hazardous byproducts.

The major goal of this Phase I project was to assess the feasibility of developing a bio-based, eco-friendly ceiling tile. To examine the development of such product, RRI planned to use nanocellulose as the primary raw material and apply cutting edge technology to the production process.

The resulting product, ArboTile, found suitable for use in commercial and residential buildings and will compete with existing products in all mechanical and thermal features and will be put on the market at a competitive price.

The major part of this inventive ceiling tile would be made of bio-based, natural content and will pose none of the potential health risks associated with existing tiles.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

RRI completed physical, thermal, and mechanical performance tests in accordance with ASTM E1264 – 14 “Standard Classification for Acoustical Ceiling Products” for ArboTile. As a result, RRI found ArboTile to be comparable with the current products on the market. In addition to having similar performance properties, ArboTile offers the following additional unique features:

  • It is biobased - the first and only nanocellulose-based ceiling tile.
  • It is reversible - When produced it has a different texture on each side, one flat and one “fibrillar.” Customers may use either side to suit their design asthetic.
  • Both sides offer a high light reflectance value (LRV) of over 85%.
  • ArboTile has 20% higher thermal resistivity (R-Value) than traditional ceiling tiles.
  • ArboTile’s higher water repellency is not only for the surfaces but it is for the entire content of the tile.
  • No additional coating or further modifications (post-treatment) are required.
  • ArboTile has the same (Class A) fire retardancy as traditional ceiling tiles.
  • ArboTile is mildew/mold resistant.
  • ArboTile is light weight, which can be critical feature for regions where seismic loads are important.
  • Manufacturing ArboTile using solar energy increases the product’s “green” factor over other competitive products on the market.


In this EPA SBIR Phase I Project, RRI developed an innovative, bio-based ceiling tile, ArboTile, with performance properties equal to or better than existing competitive products. The development of this product will provide an eco-friendly, environmentally sensitive and healthy alternative for end-users. Also, this technology and product will motivate and help to accelerate the forest products industry. RRI will prepare an SBIR Phase II application, which will include effort to improve the performance enhancements, scale-up studies, and commercialization planning.


RRI did not submit any papers, articles or technical notes about the technology and the product for Intellectual Property Protection purposes. However, through this SBIR Phase I Project, RRI attended meetings and statewide conferences to increase awareness about ArboTile. Dr. Nadir Yildirim presented non-confidential information about the project, the technology, and the product at the following events:

  • Maine’s Rural Economy, a conference presented by Envision Maine, Bangor, Maine, February 10
  • MDI Biological Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine, March 6, 2017
  • Maine Science Foundation, Bangor, Maine, “5-minute Genuis talk” March 17, 2017
  • The New Forest Economy/Emerging Biobased Products in the New Forest Economy, a forum presented by the Environmental and Energy Technology Council of Maine and GrowSmart Maine, Hallowell, Maine, March 24, 2017.


RRI has been working with the large-scale ceiling tile producers interested in RRI’s technology and the ArboTile.