Emory Report

May 15, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 33

U.S., Europe reps to discuss "green" papermaking process

By Jan Gleason

Representatives from the papermaking industry in the U.S. and Europe, the USDA Forest Service and Emory will meet later this month to further their work to move an environmentally friendly papermaking technology into the commercial realm.

The Forest Products Laboratory has organized the Polyoxometalate Bleaching Consortium with industry and academia to commercially develop and commercialize an innovative wood pulp bleaching technology developed by Emory's Craig Hill, Goodrich C. White Professor of Chemistry, Ira Weinstock, currently a visiting scientist from the Forest Products Labratory in Craig Hill's labratory, Rajai Atalla, senior scientist and professor, Forest Products Labratory, and their collegues.

The technology to convert trees to paper without pollution, known as the polyoxometalate (POM) pulp bleaching process, is chlorine free and creates no toxic byproducts. This approach uses POMs, inorganic mineral cluster compounds, to break down wood pulp into lignin and cellulose. The partially oxidized and degraded lignin fragments and POMs are then filtered off, leaving white cellulose that is ready to be made into paper. The lignin fragments and POMs are then treated with air at high temperatures and pressures to turn the POM back into its original form and convert all the waste products into carbon dioxide and water.

The technology is environmentally friendly in that it reduces energy costs, uses oxygen rather than chlorine as the oxidant, uses only water as a solvent, produces no toxic organic compounds and generates only carbon dioxide and water.

Hill, Weinstock, Atalla and the other representatives will discuss research results in a technical meeting on May 23, and the next day they will cover funding options for a pilot plant and patent and licensing issues. Mary Severson, assistant vice president and director of technology transfer, and Shirley Vanier, licensing associate, will participate in those discussions.

Funding for this work comes from the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation and industry partners. The meeting is being sponsored by Emory, the USDA Forest Products Laboratory and the University of Wisconsin

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