The forest products industry’s Agenda 2020 Technology Alliance is announcing the six research areas it will pursue under its Advanced Manufacturing Technology cooperative agreement with the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST). The areas are Chemical Recovery, Next-Generation Pulping, Reuse of Process Effluents, Reduced Energy in Paper Drying, Cellulosic Nanomaterials, and Value from Biomass.
The decision by the oversight panel was based on consideration of the recommendations in roadmaps developed during 2014 and on input from two open-forum workshops November 18 and December 10, 2014. The oversight panel consisted of the Agenda 2020 Board of Directors and representatives of its supplier and platform members.
Agenda 2020 has been developing the foundations for the upcoming work for the last year through the work of area-specific teams. The roadmaps produced in 2014 identified goals, strategies and specific research and development needs aimed at advancing the industry’s competitiveness and improving its environmental footprint. In 2015, with support from the AMTech grant, teams are being formed to drive each area forward by further defining needs, developing specific research concepts and projects, publicizing the opportunities, and seeking the experts and funding to execute them. Workshops will be held in the late Spring, 2015. Completed work products are scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2015.
Some specific areas of interest in the 2015 program are these (see the Agenda 2020 website for further details):
Chemical Recovery. The work on decreasing energy consumption in black liquor concentration is continuing and will be the focus of an AMTech roadmap. Membrane separation continues to be a priority area of investigation. Several collaborative projects are in progress within this effort.
Next-Generation Pulping. Yield increases, identification of new efficient and selective pulping catalysts, and methods of pre-treating wood chips to facilitate lignin removal are sought.
Reuse of Process Effluents. Three opportunities were identified in the 2014 roadmaps: reuse of bleach plant effluent, paper machine white water, and treated final effluent. Specific research pathways and approaches are needed to tackle barriers and realize those opportunities.
Reduced Paper Drying Energy. The industry seeks fundamental understanding of the mechanisms driving paper substrate rewet in order to increase dryness of the web entering the paper machine dryer section. Modifications to the furnish and sheet structure are also needed.
Cellulosic Nanomaterials. Industrial-scale methods of characterization and standardized test methods would enhance the manufacture and marketing of these intriguing materials and applications. Drying and redispersion methods are urgently needed.
Value from Biomass. The challenge is to determine how to use the large volume of unutilized thinning and residuals to create high-value renewable bioproducts. Potential pathways include conversion of lignin, hemicellulose and cellulose into sugars, feedstocks, and fuels.