News and research

Paper mill waste can be used to make industrial foams, researchers announced.

A grad student in agriculture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has developed a method to use paper mill waste to produce ecologically friendly, industrial foams from renewable resources, a recent press release states.

Foams are used for numerous day-to-day uses, including in the manufacture of furniture and car interiors. In many composite material applications, they are used as core material in “sandwich” panels to achieve high strength, weight reduction, energy dissipation and insulation.

Conventional foams are produced from polymers such as polyurethane, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Since all of these current foams rely on fossil oil, they present a clear environmental disadvantage.

Shaul Lapidot, a Ph.D. student of Prof. Oded Shoseyov, along with his laboratory colleagues at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the Hebrew University in Rehovot, has formulated a procedure for production of nano-crystalline cellulose (NCC) from paper mill waste.

NCC is further processed into composite foams for applications in the composite materials industry as bio-based replacement for synthetic foams.

Paper mill waste gets new purpose

The process of paper production involves loss of all fibers with dimensions lower than the forming fabric mesh.

Consequently around 50% of the total fibers initially produced are washed away as sludge. In Europe alone, 11 million tons of waste are produced annually by this industry, creating an incentive for finding alternative uses and different applications for the wastes.

Lapidot has found that fibers from paper mill sludge are a perfect source for NCC production due to their small dimensions which require relatively low energy and chemical input in order to process them into NCC.

He also developed the application of NCC into nano-structured foams. This is further processed into composite foams for applications in the composite materials industry to be used as bio-based replacement for synthetic foams.

The NCC foams developed by Lapidot and his colleagues are highly porous and lightweight.

Additional strengthening of the foams was enabled by infiltration of furan resin, a hemicellulose-based resin produced from raw crop waste, such as that remaining from sugar cane processing, as well as oat hulls, corn cobs and rice hulls.

The new NCC reinforced foams display technical performance which matches current high-end synthetic foams.

Source: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem 

Working in the pulp and paper industry?

Pulp and paper mills use a variety of chemical substances that are potentially hazardous to human health. They affect not only the workers but also the surrounding communities.

While many dangerous chemicals have been eliminated or reduced in the paper industry, including asbestos, exposure to hazardous materials may still happen at any stage in the paper-making process.

It has been shown that workers often encounter gaseous sulphur compounds, chlorine and chlorine dioxide, which can cause respiratory and cardiovascular health concerns, but which have not been linked to cancer.

As part of a comprehensive health and safety strategy at the workplace, Electrocorp Air Filtration Systems has designed a number of powerful air cleaners for pulp and paper mills, laboratories, schools and universities  as well as many other industrial and commercial applications.

Contact one of Electrocorp’s air quality experts for more information.

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