Securing competitiveness and employment are today’s most pressing topics of the Austrian pulp and paper industry: due to drastic changes in consumer behaviour and increased raw material costs, its economic situation has become more challenging. Research and development activities are key to face these economic challenges, and to strengthen Austria’s role in a changing global market.
The Austrian and European pulp and paper industry has therefore started a number of long-term research activities to ensure profitability. These activities aim on steering the industry into the leading position of a future bio-based industry. By using the most important non-food renewable raw material, i.e., wood, the pulp and paper industry has excellent prerequisites to realize this vision. In fact, the first steps have been already made: today’s pulping and bleaching processes no longer aim on cellulosic fibres and paper as sole products. These processes are already integrated with production routes for electricity, thermal energy, and bio-based chemicals (e.g., tall oil). Thus, the nucleus of a modern biorefinery that produces a variety of novel wood-based products has already formed in Austria’s pulp and paper industry. However, advanced biorefineries must use chemical and energy resources even more efficiently in order to be competitive. It is evident that such endeavours can only be successful if they are knowledge-based – reflecting the knowledge-based bioeconomy concept – and accompanied by concerted research efforts.
The proposed K-Project Flippr² - Future Lignin and Pulp Processing Research PROCESS INTEGRATION focusses its efforts on integrated solutions to efficiently manufacture value-added products from wood. Specifically, side streams available in pulp and paper mills, i.e., technical lignin from spent liquor and fines from pulp, will drive Flippr² activities. Our research programm consists of closely interlinked topics, which are all related to the complex process steps in future biorefineries: separation, fractionation, modification and recovery. Developing these processes, integrating them into the complex setting of a pulp and paper mill, as well as making these processes as efficient as possible requires an interdisciplinary approach: chemists, engineers, fibre specialists, wood technologists, biochemists and economists must act in concert. Expertise and excellence in all of these disciplines is necessary to understand, transform and expand existing process steps of the pulp and paper industry into an advanced and efficient biorefinery. A mixture of completely new methods, as well as cutting-edge technologies are employed to achieve the goals defined in Flippr²’s research program. In addition, special preparation steps are investigated to steer the characteristics of the obtained materials such that they fit value-added applications.
Flippr² is structured in two highly interconnected areas of precompetitive scientific research focusing on spent liquor utilization, and fibre fines utilization. The technical research work is complemented by an integrated life-cycle assessment to verify economic and environmental effects of the developed innovations.