Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Clean sheet for paper making

08.11.2001


New catalyst could bring cleaner paper.
© Corbis


New catalyst means greener paper is not pulp fiction.

Pollution from paper production could be cut, say US chemists, with a new way of refining wood pulp1. But the process must go through the mill before it can convert industry.

During paper production, gluey wood component lignin is stripped out to leave stringy cellulose. The harsh chemicals used create environmental pollutants, such as toxic and long-lasting chlorinated compounds.



A new chemical catalyst makes harmless gas oxygen do the same job, Craig Hill of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and his colleagues have shown. "It’s set up for being green chemistry," says joint team leader Ira Weinstock of the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service in Madison, Wisconsin.

"It’s a noble effort," says industrial chemist William Kruper of the Dow Chemical Company in Midland, Michigan. But unless the catalyst’s efficiency is improved, "the industry isn’t going to adopt this technology tomorrow", he warns.

Waste paper

Paper manufacturing is one of the world’s largest industries. It generates 100 million tonnes of wood pulp a year. Using strong chemicals and high temperatures, pulping digests up to 90% of the lignin from wood chips. The resulting slurry is made into low-quality paper such as brown grocery bags.

For premium white paper, pulp is bleached and the remaining lignin is degraded using chlorine or the more environmentally friendly substitute, chlorine dioxide. These chemicals selectively break down lignin rather than cellulose by stealing its electrons, in an ’oxidation’ reaction. The new catalyst replaces this step.

The catalyst - called a polyoxometalate (POM) - was inspired by a protein in wood-digesting fungi. First, POM oxidizes lignin. Then oxygen re-oxidizes POM. This second step converts lignin to harmless carbon dioxide and water and recycles the catalyst.

At the end of the process, the catalyst must be carefully removed to avoid traces ending up in the paper. POM contains the heavy metals tungsten and molybdenum, also of concern to environmentalists.

Although this is "clever chemistry", says Terry Collins of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, "it’s important that people keep experimenting with alternative technologies".

The inefficiency of the reaction means that 170 tonnes of catalyst are needed for every tonne of wood pulp, points out Collins, who works on green chemistry. This ratio would make working with the catalyst an expensive operation. He feels that new processes should aim to be cheap, efficient and non-toxic.

Weinstock argues that these criteria can be met and that the process can be made economically competitive.

References

  1. Weinstock, I. A. et al. Equilibriating metal-oxide cluster ensembles for oxidation reactions using oxygen in water. Nature, 414, 191 - 195, (2001).


HELEN PEARSON | © Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/011108/011108-9.html

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Listening in: Acoustic monitoring devices detect illegal hunting and logging
14.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht How fires are changing the tundra’s face
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New technique could make captured carbon more valuable

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

A chip for environmental and health monitoring

15.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>