A single paper mill can use several thousand tons of chemicals each year in bringing forth the specialized characteristics of cellulose. Through a chemical process known as esterification – a chemical reaction between an acid and alcohol – various chemicals are bound to cellulose molecules. The result is modified cellulose with desirable technical characteristics. A problem with traditional paper-making processes, however, is that organic solvents and acids are needed to achieve the chemical reactions. Extensive use of chemicals gives rise to a variety of environmental problems and significant quantities of waste.
The Swedish company OrganoClick has developed a better method for the modification of cellulose-based materials. The technology is more environmentally sound than traditional methods, while also opening the door to development of new pulp characteristics and significant reductions in material consumption in the paper industry. The technology can also produce water-resistant paper and textiles and an environmentally sound process for impregnating wood against rot. Color, strength and optical and antibacterial characteristics may also be modified with the OrganoClick technology.
A chemical “handle” for cellulose molecules
OrganoClick employs “green catalysts” that are able to bind molecules to cellulose at low temperatures, giving desirable characteristics such as water resistance to paper, textile or wood. A chemical group on the cellulose molecule functions like a “handle” to bind to other molecules such as polyesters or dyes, leading to completely new characteristics. The process is also suitable for other substances composed of long chains of carbohydrates, such as starches.
The OrganoClick technology requires no solvents or harmful chemicals. The method is based on organic catalysts mixed with the modified chemicals in aqueous solutions. This reduces the use of non-renewable materials and toxic or persistent substances.
Extends existing production methods
OrganoClick can be introduced into common industrial processes without expensive re-tooling, allowing the company to offer specialized methods and materials for cellulose-based products according to customer requirements. OrganoClick is currently working on commercially viable materials with partners in the pulp, paper and textile industries.
Article published in August 2009