Wood contains as much hemicellulose as cellulose fibers, and can be used to make foam materials for packaging and absorbent applications in hygiene products. The hemicellulose is extracted from side-streams in the paper mill and chemically modified to suit the final application.
Aim and goal
To extract hemicellulose from existing side-streams of pulp production, and to chemically modify it using commercially available reactions and chemicals for suitable material properties. The hemicellulose is then extruded into foams with tailored material properties.
The large majority of commercial foam materials are currently petroleum based. The hemicellulose present in pulp manufacturing is currently incinerated for energy recovery. We need to make better use of our forests and at the same time decrease our dependence on petroleum.
The project scientists have together with industry developed methods for extracting hemicellulose from side-streams, and utilized organic chemistry with commercially available chemicals to modify the hemicellulose to e.g. extend the chain length and to make it more water resistant. Extrusion is a scalable process suitable for continuous, large scale production of thermoplastic based materials such as foams. The concept has been proven by extruding the modified hemicellulose at kilogram scale into foam materials.
Strong foam materials with closed cells are suitable for stiff and insulating packagings, whereas soft foams with open cell structure is suitable in absorbing hygiene materials. The new materials can be used for improved packagings as well as for more sustainable hygiene products.