Phase III

This proposal builds up on two previous $3M, 5-year NSERC CRDs which UBC has continuously hosted over the past 10 years. Previously, our research emphasized energy reduction through improvement of the advanced thermo-mechanical pulp (ATMP) process developed by Andritz. In this third phase, our goals have expanded into a three-pronged program created through consultation during stakeholder workshops.

Our vision is to ensure Canada leads the inevitable ‘green’ forest-based bio-economy revolution with transformative technologies applied to the Canadian pulp and paper industry. Our approach is to employ an interdisciplinary team, ranging from scientists to engineers, from three faculties and three Canadian universities, in conjunction with local Canadian industry with the common goal of capturing this opportunity for Canada.

Theme 1: System Design for Low Energy Mechanical Pulping Processes

This theme continues our work in the first two phases of the program. We will further research improvements of the mechanical pulping process through unique chemistries to enhance fibre properties and reduce energy consumption, data analytics to create more effective control strategies, and process modelling, design, and sensing (low consistency [LC] refiner force sensor) to optimize operating conditions for specific furnish properties. We will particularly concentrate on differentials between typical softwood feed stocks, and less conventional hardwood feed stocks, a material that remains relatively unexplored in terms of machine and process design. For this, this theme has being divided into three sub-projects:

Project 1.1 (C)TMP System Design for Low Energy Pulps, co-led by Professors Peter Wild (UVic) and James Olson (UBC)

Project 1.2 Data Analytics, Monitoring, and Control, co-led by UBC Professors Bhushan Gopaluni and  Yankai Cao

Project 1.3 Creating Low-Energy Shive-Free Pulps, co-led by Professors Rodger Beatson (BCIT) and  Heather Trajano (UBC)

Theme 2: Valorization of thermomechanical pulp fines

This theme will address the question of valorizing the newly-created fines stream. We will examine: functionalization of lignin-rich fines stream creating extremely hydrophobic or extremely hydrophilic additives, creation of low-grade micro-fibrillated cellulose (MFC) through enzymatic treatment to be used as a strength additive, and examination of methods to valorize the terpenes (extractives) through catalytic conversion with amination (targeting pharmaceuticals). We will theoretically examine some of the open fundamental questions hindering the translation of a mechanical pulping biorefinery into practice by developing the following sub-projects:

Project 2.1 Lignin rich fines: simple routes towards creation of hydrophobic and hydrophilic filler additives, led by UBC Professor Scott Renneckar

Project 2.2 From trees to Treatment – Functionalization TMP extractices, co-led by  UBC Professors Laurel Schafer and Heather Trajano

Project 2.3 MFC production,characterization, and properties from mechanical pulp, co-led by UBC Professors Boris Stoeber and James Olson

Theme 3: Enhancing properties of fines-free furnishes

To complement the effort mentioned in Theme 2 we will enhance the fines-free furnishes created in Theme 2, using novel chemistries to either preserve fibre-bulk (inverse of the apparent density) during processing or enhance fibre-bulk, i.e., the ability to swell during water absorption. We will continue our work on mixtures–rules for furnishes (blends of mechanical and kraft pulps) to achieve targeted bulk, stiffness, and absorbency goals, and use advanced microscopic visualization for direct evidence of the behaviour of the chemistries or mixtures under product-service conditions. For this, this theme has being divided into two sub-projects:

Project 3.1 Creating Bulky Fibres, co-led by UBC Professors Emily Cranston and Mark Martinez

Project 3.2 Advanced Characterization – Computer Tomography, co-led by Professors Mark Martinez (UBC) and André Phillion (McMaster University)