Researchers Honored with Fellowship

TAPPI, the leading association for the worldwide pulp, paper, packaging, and converting industries, has announced the selection of FPL’s Carl Houtman and Junyong Zhu as TAPPI Fellows.

“Fellow” is an honorary title bestowed upon a small percentage of TAPPI’s membership and is given to individuals who have made extraordinary technical and service contributions to the industry and/or the association.

Junyong Zhu, FPL research general engineer

Junyong Zhu, FPL research general engineer

Carl Houtman, FPL chemical engineer

Carl Houtman, FPL chemical engineer

“We are extremely proud of JY and Carl in their designation as a TAPPI Fellow,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Products Laboratory and Northern Research Station. “This is a tremendous honor and highlights their calling for public service and vibrant representation of the Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service, and our research and development mission area.  Their skill in discovery and dedication to innovative technology is helping improve people’s lives and create healthy, sustainable forests that are more resilient to disturbances such as a changing climate, wildfires, and the outbreaks of destructive invasive species.”

Houtman is a chemical engineer and has been a TAPPI member since 1998. Zhu is a research general engineer and has been a TAPPI member since 1994. Both researchers work within FPL’s Fiber and Chemical Science Research work unit.


FPL Researcher Receives 2014 TAPPI Research and Development Technical Award

JunYong Zhu, research general engineer at the Forest Products Laboratory, is winner of the 2014 Research and Development Technical Award and William H. Aiken Prize by TAPPI’s International Research Management Committee (IRMC). This award is given for outstanding accomplishments or contributions advancing the technology of paper and related industries. The award will be presented this week at PaperCon 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.


JunYong Zhu, research general engineer at FPL.

By focusing on biomass utilization, mill pulping and fiber processing technology and processes, Dr. Zhu’s work has “made a significant contribution to the industry’s fundamental understanding of these areas as well as our ability to use materials commercially,” notes Larry N. Montague, president and CEO of TAPPI. “His research spans both laboratory and mill-level studies and this prestigious award recognizes the importance and the impact of this work.”

Zhu’s work includes developing the Kraft pulping process and air emission controls, novel flotation deinking technologies, test methods for pulp and paper analysis, upgrading and pretreatment of forest residues for biofuel production and novel methods for the production of cellulose nanomaterials. It has also included research on understanding the fundamentals of cellulase enzyme interactions with lignocelluloses for woody biomass bioconversion.

TAPPI is the leading association for the worldwide pulp, paper, packaging, tissue and converting industries and publisher of Paper360°, Tissue360° and TAPPI JOURNAL.

A Winning Paper…on Paper

A journal article authored by Forest Products Laboratory researchers David Vahey (retired) and John Considine has been selected as the TAPPI Journal Best Research Paper for 2013.

David Vahey, FPL research materials engineer (retired)

David Vahey, FPL research materials engineer (retired)

Vahey and Considine, both materials research engineers, wrote “Influence of forming conditions on fiber tilt” with partner Michael MacGregor who is retired from MacGregor Paper Consulting. The research was assessed based on innovation, creativity, scientific merit, and clear and concise presentation of ideas.

John Considine, FPL research material engineer

John Considine, FPL research material engineer

“This paper is an example of high-quality, fundamental research that significantly improves the industry’s understanding of basic sheet properties and sheet structure and the model developed could also potentially be used to aid in troubleshooting paper performance,” said TAPPI Journal Editorial Board member Terry Bliss. The paper reported “highly valuable and innovative research work that expanded on earlier research by developing a simple model for fiber tilt.” In addition, Bliss said, results were written in a “clear, logical, and easy-to-follow manner. It’s a very thorough and well written research paper.”

The paper and its authors will be honored at the PaperCon 2014 Conference Awards Dinner on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

TAPPI is the leading association for the worldwide pulp, paper, packaging, tissue and converting industries and publisher of Paper360°, Tissue360° and TAPPI Journal.

Women’s History Month: FPL Remembers Marguerite Sykes

Is paper one of the first things that comes to mind when you think about forest products? FPL has been at the forefront of developing innovative and environmentally friendly methods for producing this ubiquitous product. Chemist Marguerite Sykes, who worked in FPL’s pilot plant from 1971 until her retirement in 2002, was a key player in paper pulping research and development.


Marguerite Sykes makes handsheets of paper for evaluation in the paper test laboratory by using experimental pulps. (1980s)

The challenge for FPL scientists has been to economically and sustainably increase the yield of pulp from wood. FPL developed a pulping process that significantly increased pulp yield and allowed use of many underutilized hardwoods. Research at FPL also improved the sulfate (kraft) pulping process so that many softwoods could be used in paper making. These practices have extended timber supply and enhanced forest management.

During her tenure at FPL, Sykes worked on many interdisciplinary teams and co-authored nearly 60 papers. In an interview with the University of Wisconsin U.S. Forest Products Lab Centennial Oral History Project, Sykes speaks with passion for that work: “I think everything I worked on the last fifteen years [was] extraordinarily exciting and I think they were kind of breakthrough topics [such as how] to replace the chemicals for pulping and bleaching and recycling with more environmentally sound methods like enzymes or hydrogen peroxide for bleaching. And so everything was new, and although some people had been doing it, none of these techniques were being used commercially. So it was just kind of ground work on some of these things that made it very exciting.”

Sykes speaks more about how this work came to be. From the mid-1980s through the 1990s, “recycling became big just because landfills were being filled so rapidly,” and people threw out an enormous amount of paper. In addition to recycling work, Sykes felt that existing recycling processes used an excess of chemicals that were “very harmful to the [effluent] waters that came out of the mill.” These chemicals, she says, were defeating any environmental benefits. For this reason, Sykes and others “started using enzymes for de-inking, and that too is an innovative idea.”

Sykes also talks about making handsheets, where in the test lab, “you slurry the pulp and there is a special instrument of sheet mold that you make a hand sheet and all the tests are brightness, how white it is, how strong it is, how easy it tears go back to the basic hand sheet.”

Paper. It’s all around us. FPL thanks this innovative and enthusiastic scientist for her work in improving paper production.




Distinguished Scientist Award Goes to FPL Researcher

JunYong Zhu, research general engineer at the Forest Products Laboratory, was recently presented with the Forest Service Deputy Chief’s Distinguished Science Award.

FPL Researcher JunYong Zhu

FPL Researcher JunYong Zhu

Jimmy Reaves, Deputy Chief of Research and Development, awarded Zhu the honor for his “sustained productivity and scientific excellence in creating innovative market-based solutions for the utilization of low-value forest-based biomass.”  Reaves went on to say Zhu is “a credit to the Forest Service and the larger research community.”

The award is a special honor for Zhu, a new immigrant to the United States and whose parents were farmers with little education. “I am very grateful for the education I received that equipped me with life learning skills,” said Zhu. “This can only happen in America.”

Zhu is also quick to thank those who have helped him along the way. “I am grateful for the many great people, including collaborators, visiting scientists, and scholars, who diligently contributed to my research program,” Zhu added.

“We are proud of JY’s work and his great public service as we strive to make our forests healthy, sustainable and more resilient to disturbances,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Products Laboratory and Northern Research Station.

Interestingly, Zhu’s education and background is not in wood science, but rather mechanical and aerospace engineering. He is now firmly rooted in the world of wood, however, with current research focusing on using undervalued materials, such as beetle-killed trees, for biofuel and nanocellulose production, as well as fundamental research on cell wall deconstruction.