Innventia: Boosting fiber-based businesses through science

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Innventia: Boosting fiber-based businesses through science

June 01, 2015 - 03:57

BRUSSELS, May 1, 2015 (PPI Magazine) - Innventia is boosting fiber-based businesses through science on all continents

If you want to know how fiber from trees fits into the future, a good place to go for answers is Innventia, a world-class research organization in Stockholm. Are you open to nanocellulose adding strength to your new grades, made possible from a mobile factory pulling up beside your paper machines? What about new shapes and flexibility of packaging, based upon fiber combining with other raw materials? Is it possible that low cost tissue can take on tactile and strength qualities to rival premium brands? Or do you see greater potential in the various components of trees to produce ingredients for pharmaceuticals, flavors or alternative energy? 

 

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"If you are seeking innovations in material processes, packaging solutions or biorefining, Innventia has the experience and structure to support you," says Fredrik Rosen,Innventia, director market strategy 

In fact, over the past decade, Innventia has globalized, attracting projects from leading pulp and paper producers, suppliers and entrepreneurs to improve quality, lower costs and open entirely new markets. 

"If you are seeking innovations in material processes, packaging solutions or biorefining, Innventia has the experience and structure to support you," says Fredrik Rosen, Innventia, director market strategy.

Built around a team of more than 200, their capability is enhanced by a large-scale pilot paper machine, a nanocellulose factory on-site and "on wheels", traditional labs with advanced testing equipment, and a sensory monitoring capability to test consumer responses on a practical and emotional level. 

"Science has a vital role to play in advancing the value of fiber," continues Rosen. "Our sponsors expect us to help them develop products and process improvements more rapidly. From pulp producers in South America to tissue makers in Europe and Asia to packaging producers in Sweden, we run collective and individually sponsored projects. 

"Making nanocellulose, one of our most attention getting initiatives, delivers entirely new possibilities in strength for packaging, as well as functionality benefits for food additives and cosmetics. Less glamorous programs include reducing energy in pulp and papermaking. Another initiative speeds up qualification of board grades for a packaging machine maker, vital to the industry's profitability and sustainability." 

What You Feel In the Air at Innventia

A walk through the Innventia cluster of offices, labs and pilot plants reveals something important, which would not be obvious without a visit. In the lobby, there is a small display of innovation paper and packaging products and awards. They actually represent breakthroughs and eye-opening ideas for many segments of the industry. If you observe some nanocellulose in a bottle, or a package that twists and grows to the touch, or 15 other objects, you have a glimpse of wide range of R&D projects. Depending on your focus and objective, a collaborative team is ready to accelerate your success through structured and practical steps forward. 

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Mattias Drotz and team are also exploring ways to reduce fiber content by increasing air in tissue 

Adds Rosen, "Not only do our scientists and PhD candidates come from all over the world, but native Swedes travel extensively. We experience life and work through the richness of cultures, which gives us perspective not otherwise possible. For us science is business, too. And branding is part R&D." 

Upscaling Nanocellusose Production a High Priority

Eva Ålander, Innventia's team leader for nanocellulose, sees a transition in their nanocellulose work from experimental to commercial applications in the pulp and paper industry and in other segments. 

"Our mobile factory, sponsored by BillerudKorsnas and Vinnova, allows for full-scale trials on paper machines. Papermakers can try various formulations to improve strength and other properties. They can improve a sheet, and lower material and energy costs. In addition, we are exploring entirely new possibilities like thickener for hair, and additives for food." 

The Innventia, Vinnova and BillerudKorsnäs collaboration focuses on nanocellulose used in papermaking to make lighter and stronger paper and board, and other applications in food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and construction. 

Ålander believes that wood fiber will replace plastics on an increasing basis. "When products are produced from renewable and biodegradable raw materials, they have a great appeal to many companies and end consumers." 

"Now we can validate nanocellulose potential on a full scale," says Mikael Ankerfors, project manager, New Business Lab, BillerudKorsnäs. 

"Nanocellulose as a proven, commercial raw material is a perfect match with our mission to challenge conventional packaging for a sustainable future," comments Magnus Wikström, SVP strategic development, BillerudKorsnäs. 

Mineral Content Rising, Costs Declining

Imerys, a leading minerals supplier has worked with Innventia to increase the ratio of minerals to fiber, while maintaining strength through the addition of nanocellulose (microfibrillated cellulose, MFC) to pulp. 

Says Per Svending of Imerys, "Lab work convinced us that nanocellulose could enhance paper strength, even at very high filler levels. Optical properties, porosity and surface smoothness also looked promising, but you never know 100% until you run on a paper machine. 

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Eva Ålander sees a transition in nanocellulose work from experimental to commercial applications in the pulp and paper industry andin other segments 

"We chose Innventia because of their traditional papermaking know-how and cutting edge capabilities, applied on their own pilot paper machine. Under strict secrecy Imerys provided products with different mixtures of nanocellulose and filler, which were added to fine paper recipes." 

The results showed that it is possible to maintain retention levels with increased filler content, if nanocellulose is mixed into the filler. The runnability of the pilot machine was good, and the dewatering was unproblematic. 

"Every time we've held discussions with a prospective customer for a trial run, we've shown the results at Innventia to demonstrate what we expect to happen on their paper machine. This gives us credibility and has also been shown to correspond closely with what will happen on a full scale." 

Svending continues, "We plan to build facilities at customers' sites, using their pulp, energy and water treatment, converting a substream of pulp into nanocellulose." 

Biorefinery Concept for Ethanol Production

According to Innventia's biorefinery concept, production of biofuels can be integrated in the pulp mill. One example is the Swedish-Brazilian consortium, POLYNOL, aiming to make biofuels and biochemicals from sugars. It is exploring a new process, developed at Innventia, for co-production of polymers, ethanol and lignin in pulp mill. 

Feedstock for ethanol in this case includes bagasse and logging residues. The process is integrated with a kraft pulp mill when it comes to energy and chemical recovery, including lignin extraction from ethanol production. The ethanol may be partly used as raw material for polymers for barrier materials in liquid packaging. From a business perspective, the new concept involves entirely new products in the pulp mill's portfolio, which is well suited to the global demand for renewable products. 

Says Paulo Pavan at Fibria, chairman of the project board, "The consortium involves a range of players along the value chain from producers to end-users within the forest industry and the sugar industry in Sweden and Brazil. Together, the two countries account for 20% of global kraft pulp production. With an integrated biorefinery process, production of sugars and lignin could reach a scale of several million tonnes per year." 

Tissue and More

Innventia's Mattias Drotz runs the tissue research cluster, which began in 2009. This includes contract work, exploratory research and research programs involving the industry. 

Industrial research, including pulp producers and machinery suppliers, has focused on lowering energy costs, and improving tissue properties for lower costs. Another important facet includes the end properties of tissue, such as softness, absorption, mechanical properties, and the perceptions of end consumers. 

Says Drotz, "Our work often starts in the lab, and then moves onto a pilot machine in Karlstad, Sweden, or another in Brussels. One producer from Turkey and another from Germany aim to modify their production processes to achieve tissue qualities that rival premium brands-while at the same time competing at lower cost. We are also exploring ways to lower fiber by increasing air in tissue. Air is free, so why not use it to save money and positively impact the look and feel of the end products?" 

Fiber's Future

Concludes Rosen, "The industry has access to a renewable raw material, which can be converted into an endless number of products and materials. Developing new, marketable products and materials from wood raw material is the real challenge. Our job at Innventia is to facilitate and accelerate fiber's future in conventional and entirely new ways." 

Martin Koepenick, Innova, has extensive experience covering the forest products industry. He is based in Atlanta, GA, and can be reached at mkoepen@gmail.com 

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