From tree to tissue, or to package, or to stationery, magazine or newspaper or thousands of other products—pulping liberates fibers from woody plants and rearranges them into a consistently formed end products. The science rests in efficient processes that conserve energy and raw materials while producing the desired product.
In the 1950s, the kraft chemical pulping process became the dominant technology for isolating wood fiber from chips. While this produces strong pulp and efficient recovery of raw materials and energy, the yield is below ideal and has an inherent capital intensity for the investor. RBI researchers are developing improvements in next generation pulping to address these challenges.
We are exploring pretreatment options to make fiber separation more efficient, improving yields. A number of catalysis options, including biochemical methods, are under investigation. Biorefining processes are converting cellulose and lignin into sugars, fuels, and chemical intermediates and feedstocks.
Advanced processes under investigation include modeling tools for evaporation of water from spent pulping liquor and techniques to eliminate equipment fouling. Advanced membrane technologies are expanding capabilities for cost-effective separation of organics and inorganics from spent pulping liquor. This opens up new possibilities for reducing energy intensity and even more efficient reuse of process streams.
Understanding the pathways of erosion and corrosion, and developing means to eliminate them, can save millions in maintenance and replacement costs, as well as lost production. Analysis and testing capabilities include thermodynamic prediction and modeling of corrosion processes and recommendations for improved metallurgy to address the aggressive environments in these applications.
At RBI, we continue to explore the seemingly limitless possibilities of paper. As the successor to the Institute of Paper Chemistry founded in 1929 by leaders of the pulp and paper industry, our mission is to create a body of knowledge and advance the industry.
Our researchers are working to understand and manage new ways in which:
• molecular structures in fibers can be coaxed to bond (or not)
• the structure of a sheet can be formed
• moisture, gases, oil and grease can be absorbed or repelled
• inks can be accepted or released
• formation and de-watering will improve manufacturing and energy efficiency
These mechanisms and more are creating inspiration for new products of the 21st century. Operational excellence is our goal.
In taking the industry into this new era of technology and application of science, we continue to develop paper-based substrates and biocomposites for applications in electronics used in smart packaging; high-strength, light-weight panels for aviation and automotive uses; advanced technologies for paper, packaging and films; strength and fracture characteristics of paper for packaging; superamphiphobic paper for water and grease repellency; and auxetic papers that expand when stretched.