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Technical Research Centre of Finland Develops High-Technology Ecological Paper


Raw starch replaces mineral raw materials

VTT, Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed natural materials from raw starch, which helps to make very high-quality paper that is fully recyclable. Due to the materials used for filling, adhesive and coating purposes, paper developed from starch is 20 to 30 per cent lighter, which means a reduction in transport costs too. The new raw materials of starch paper and their manufacturing methods are expected to be a success.

The new raw materials and methods developed by VTT have drawn particular international interest, because fully recyclable paper supports sustainable development and opens totally new perspectives on reducing the environmental impacts of paper products. After recycling, the components of starch-based paper can be fully converted to bioenergy with less emissions than the conventional paper.

With the help of internationally unique new technology, starch can technically replace the mineral (rock-based) filling and adhesive materials of paper. Even partially replacing minerals with starch improves the surface strength of paper and makes it easier to print on. Starch also helps to achieve better colour rendering. In addition, it is easier to make starch paper glossy, which reduces the finishing costs. Costs are further reduced by the fact that paper-finishing devices (calenders) wear less because there are fewer or no minerals in the paper.

VTT has developed the new raw materials chemically from potato starch. With the new raw materials it is possible to replace some of expensive oil-based binder materials, and there are also applications in the paint and plastic industries. However, the production costs of the new raw materials are high at the moment.

The production process of starch pigments requires development work to improve the cost structure, because the optimisation of the production process has not yet been clarified.

VTT has applied for three patents connected to the production of starch-based and starch-concentrated paper. The participants in the starch paper development work have the primary right to exploit VTT’s patents. Finding ways of commercialising starch-based paper and making it an internationally successful product in the paper and chemical industry fields will be a national challenge.

VTT and the universities of Helsinki and Joensuu participated in the research and development project. The project was funded by Tekes, VTT, M-real, Stora Enso, Metso Paper and Ciba Specialty Chemicals.

Irene Hernberg | alfa
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