There is an increasing demand for bio-based materials in our societies. The shortage of oil and the political uncertainties regarding the control of oil resulting in fluctuating prices as well as the increasing levels of carbon dioxide resulting in the greenhouse effect and global warming are the two main societal driving forces. The decreased use of printing paper resulting in the closure of paper mills and unemployment is another driving force. The forest industry needs to find new markets for their raw material.
Among the first developed plastics were the cellulose esters i.e. cellulose acetate, CA. Their development stopped in the late 1960 when fossil based polymers were coming on the market with low prices, wide variety, ease of processibility and good properties. But CA is an excellent plastic and with the above mentioned discussions about bio-based feedstock and regional added value, it comes in the market focus again. Present disadvantages of CA and other cellulose esters are in the need of pulping, the low bio-based content, and its high melting point preventing its use a matrix with natural fibre reinforcements. By developing and using new chemical modified hemicellulose and/or other wood-based chemicals, the HEMICELL project team will overcome several of these disadvantages. The development of novel applied-orientated and competitive plastics compound compositions of wood-based cellulose esters and wood-based chemicals through never-tried ways is the goal of this project.
The pulp and fibre industry has been recently developing new pulp qualities and new energy efficient processes, with the consequence to give new side streams in the pulp mills. The HEMICELL project will take advantage of the new side streams containing hemicellulose, use mainly only for energy production or fermentation to alcohol to prepare new materials. In pre-hydrolysis kraft cooking, wood components are dissolved in liquid fractions. The wood hydrolysate contains dispersed and dissolved components including poly-, oligo-, and monosaccharides (mostly hemicelluloses), extractives, and lignin. The need to transform paper mills into a biorefinery requests to find new ways to efficiently produce, recover and utilize valuable substances from process liquors. Our project will participate to this effort for preparing the papermill biorefinary of the future.