July 3, 2009 Margarita Calafell, a researcher at the Department of Chemical Engineering of the UPC’s School of Industrial and Aeronautical Engineering of Terrassa (ETSEIAT), has developed a new material by applying a biotechnological treatment to paper sludge.
In many cases, the new material could replace plastic packaging and auxiliary building materials. The new patented material has unique properties. It is low density, mouldable, fire resistant, impermeable, porous and highly resistant, and it may replace less environmentally friendly materials in many industry and production sectors.
Recycling paper to obtain more paper or cardboard has been a common process for many years. However, the production of a new, highly resistant, versatile and environmentally friendly material from the unwanted waste of this process is a completely new idea. This has been achieved by Margarita Calafell, a researcher at the UPC’s Terrassa Campus who runs the Enzyme Catalysis Laboratory of the UPC’s Engineering and Biotechnology (ENGIBIO) research group.
1 kg of paper, 1 kg of new material
This researcher has devised a new biotechnology method that she has used to modify the chemical and structural properties of the cellulose materials that are left over from the paper recycling process. Thus, she has created a new compact, mouldable, fire resistant, impermeable, strong, porous material that could, in many cases, replace materials that are not environmentally friendly or that are more expensive, such as plastics, wood derivatives or rubber. This is achieved in the most productive way possible, as each kilogram of paper produces a kilogram of the new material, which has numerous applications in various industry and production sectors.
Substitute for plasterboard and expanded polystyrene
Because the new material is strong, insulating, impermeable and low density, it can replace plasterboard and many other materials used in construction, such as partition walls, soundproofing boards or false ceilings. The material’s mouldability means that it can be used to manufacture all kinds of packaging products and could replace expanded polystyrene or other petroleum-derived products.
Highly versatile method
The new material has been patented by Calafell, with a UPC patent. The innovativeness of the new material is a result of the great versatility of the new method. The researcher stated that this technique can be used to modify the properties of all kinds of residues from cellulose materials (paper), polymeric material (plastics), and even rubber from tyres. However, Margarita Calafell insisted that the product of the new technique is not a kind of agglomerate, but a new material with unique, uniform properties that has yet to be named.
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