Applying high-power ultrasound technology for the treatment of pulp suspensions
The concept of this project is to investigate a zero-waste production of pulps from annual plants and agro-waste by targeted application of new and more efficient ultrasound (US) technology. Due to the dispersion of these raw materials over relatively large territories, the industrial application will require rather small production units, and is therefore typically relevant for SMEs. The objectives are:
- Extend the raw material supply
- Avoiding future bottlenecks in the supply of low-cost fibres for papermaking (focus on annual plants / agro-waste available in large quantities, as alternatives to wood or recovered paper used as raw materials)
- Possible new applications for fibres obtained from annual plants / agro-waste in other industries (e.g. textile industry, construction industry).
The main effort will be made toward the production of non bleached fibres for use in the packaging industry. The advantages are a higher yield, the production of stronger fibres, a lower need for chemicals and a lower impact on the environment.
- Provide efficient utilisation options for by-products of the cooking or digestion of annual plants / agro-waste or other residues. In connection with pulping, it is planned to investigate processes permitting profitable uses of by-products (non-fibre fraction), the utilisation of other residues from paper production being considered an option as well. Biogas production is the privileged approach, the principal aim being zero-waste pulp production.
- The targeted use of new, more efficient US technology for pulp treatment to produce customized fibres for paper and board production, e.g. pulps from annual plants or agro-waste, justification for virgin pulps from wood and RCF (recycled fibre pulps). Established stock preparation and treatment technologies (fibre treatment by mechanical contact – beating/refining) have little room for improvement regarding quality and energy savings. There is a need for another pulp treatment and stock preparation method which demands less energy whilst maintaining or ensuring the quality characteristics of fibres. Exploring the potential of high-power ultrasound treatment in this respect is a key objective of SONOPULP.
- Application of the pulps produced or treated in this project: exploring the range of possible applications for fibres obtained or treated by means of US. Specific product characteristics resulting from new fibre qualities or combinations thereof with conventional products permit new applications (e.g. in packaging). This will benefit paper converters (most of whom are SMEs), especially if the same product characteristics can be achieved at lower cost.
- Creating the basis for developing a universally applicable ultrasound module for the paper industry (design, dimensioning, operating parameters). Broadening the application of US technology and new markets is another expected benefit for SMEs of the mechanical and plant engineering or construction sectors.