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Klabin invests to scale up nanocrystals for packaging solutions

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Klabin invests to scale up nanocrystals for packaging solutions

March 20, 2018 - 15:26

SAO PAULO, March 20, 2018 (PPI Latin America) -Moving on with its strategy to offer innovative forestry-based products, Brazil's largest packaging paper producer Klabin has recently acquired a 12.5% share in the Israeli startup Melodea Bio Based Solutions for $2.5 million. The idea behind the deal is to scale up in two or three years a technology for the extraction of cellulose nanocrystalline (CNC) – a sub-product from pulp production that the company expects to at least partially substitute for polyethylene use in packaging solutions in the near-future.

According to Klabin's director for technology and pulp business, Francisco Razzolini, the company has mapped several opportunities involving products that are renewable, sustainable, and can reduce the use of fossil fuels and chemicals. "In this research, we have found the CNC, crystals that are separated from the pulp in a process using concentrated sulfuric acid, which recombine and form a transparent film."

Up to the moment, Klabin has noticed that this film can offer a barrier to oxygen, water and oil. "We are still testing different formulations, but we have included the CNC in our route of development for new packaging, aiming that it can substitute for polyethylene or reduce its use," Razzolini said. In an aqueous suspension, the executive added, CNC has also improved physical properties of paper.

Razzolini estimates that reaching into a commercial application for the CNC will take a further two or three years of studies, as several tests and validations should be completed before offering a new product to the market. "Producing it is not a problem, but we have to adapt systems of application and formulations. We believe this will be used in premium products with high value-added, not in a large scale."

The production of CNC has no interference in the regular pulp and paper production process, the executive said, as it uses waste from the mill's effluents. "Because of that, we will also reduce the quantity of fiber that currently goes to composting and that are actually composed by noble waste which couldn't be recovered before the development of this technology."

Melodea was created in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and owns a newly opened pilot plant in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, in a partnership with MoRe Research Institute, Holmen, and the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE). "The idea is to consolidate the technology and recovery the sulfuric acid used in the process, scaling it up to industrial levels. We have injected money in the company, so it can continue developing these studies and other possible applications for the CNC, including lubricants for drill bits, food thickeners, and control of viscosity in some products," Razzolini commented.

The executive believes that with even oil prices at the current low levels, investing in this kind of development will bring a return for the company. "We believe that there is an enormous pollution generated by plastics that will never be dispersed in the environment. We see the world moving towards a higher awareness of damage to nature and seeking sustainable products even if they have an additional cost."

Focused on innovation, Razzolini stressed that Klabin continues to seek opportunities and can make other similar investments in the future. "Putting money in startups has a risk, as we don't know if the technologies they discover will consolidate, but we have been looking for good projects in order to provide new renewable products that are related to our core business of paper production."

By Marina Faleiros, Senior News Editor, PPI Latin America,