FPL Partner Procures Patent: Better Building With BioSIPS

Whether serving as a bookshelf, tabletop, or wall panel, the composite board is a ubiquitous construction material found in furniture and homes alike. Traditional composite boards use mankind’s most trusted building resource, wood, as a base — but a new patented process using waste products stands to revolutionize the familiar building material, making it even more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

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BioSIPS use low-value recycled material to make high-value structural materials.

Julee Herdt, a professor at the University of Colorado – Denver, and Kellen Schauermann, a former graduate student, were recently awarded a patent for their Bio-Structural Insulated Panels (BioSIPS) system. BioSIPS are structural boards comprised of waste material such as recycled paper, noxious weeds, industrial hemp, and forest debris.

Herdt, the CEO and president of BioSIPS Inc., hopes that her product will help ease the environmental and energy concerns of tomorrow.

Although wood-based Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) have been around for some time, Herdt’s BioSIPS, made from 100% recycled material, could replace their conventional wood counterparts. BioSIPS wall, floor, and roof panels even surpass conventional SIPS in some strength-testing areas (especially compressive and transverse loading) as well as exhibit superior thermal characteristics — which is important, as thermally-efficient structures go hand-in-hand with decreased energy usage.

Herdt’s accomplishment comes on the heels of a long legacy of research and collaboration with the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL). In 1995, she was part of a project that researched and tested GRIDCORE (FPL’s Spaceboard) panels — three-dimensional, molded structural panels comprised of recycled corrugated containers, old newsprint, and kenaf, a plant native to southern Asia. The name “spaceboard” referred to the spaces afforded by the waffle-like design of the GRIDCORE panels, which allowed for increased strength and decreased weight and material usage.

Nearly 20 years later, BioSIPS, like GRIDCORE panels before them, carry on the tradition of turning society’s low-grade waste into high-value products that have proven utility in real-world construction projects. Along with her personal office, Herdt and her team built entire houses with BioSIPS, winning first prize at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon in 2002 and 2005.

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Herdt, Schauermann and Hunt await another patent for new methods of creating complex three-dimensional shapes with fiber boards.

Herdt and Schauermann, along with FPL Research General Engineer John Hunt, are awaiting the award of a second patent, Cut-Fold Shape Technology for Engineered Molded Fiber Boards, which relates to a new process of folding fiber boards into three-dimensional shapes to maximize their utility and strength.

In a world of increased environmental awareness, BioSIPS promise to offer designers, engineers, and industry professionals new ways to build strong, energy-efficient structures and provide another avenue for society to make better use of its waste products. Through technologies like these, we will better be able to tackle the construction challenges of tomorrow in an environmentally responsible way.

 

 

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.

JY-ZHU

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.

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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.