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Research will Focus on Environmentally Friendly Compounds to Enhance Properties and Increase Usefulness of Paper

Patents to Stimulate Research

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Kimberly-Clark Worldwide's donation of 13 patents to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) could potentially be worth millions of dollars and result in the development of improved consumer products.

The final value of the patents will ultimately depend on the results of the research and the market demand at the time those results are ready to be put into practice by industry. In the meantime, the patents will serve as incubators for new ideas and a training ground for the next generation of scientists.

"The research we perform is done in the context of the education of our students," said Dr. D. Steven Keller, who will lead the ESF research team. "When we pursue a technical problem in our scientific research, our students discover new ways of solving problems."

Keller's expertise is in the area of paper structure and surface chemistry. Some of the research on this project will be performed by ESF's Dr. Paul Caluwe of the Faculty of Chemistry. Caluwe's focus will be to investigate new compounds to enhance paper’s properties and the mechanisms that make the compounds work.

The team will focus on two areas: using more environmentally friendly compounds to enhance certain properties, such as strength and appearance in paper products; and developing innovative approaches and enzyme treatments of new and recycled fibers to enhance the quality of paper products.

In the first instance, researchers will investigate subtle changes in the surface chemistry of the fibers to change the paper.

"You can change the surface chemistry on a fiber so it does all sorts of interesting things," Keller said. "You can treat the surface to increase strength of paper when it is wet. Maybe when you do that, it will change the color. By doing this we may be able to find additives that have a dual purpose."

The second aspect of the project will focus on improving the quality of recycled material such as newsprint. The patents provide key technical information about various treatments and the ESF team will look for ways to improve on those ideas and to apply those processes, using other surfactants and enzyme treatments and other grades of recyclable paper.

"We're not going to limit our study to the compounds included in the intellectual property donated by Kimberly Clark, but we're going to explore new chemicals and applications," Keller said.

The goal is to increase the use of efficient, biobased processes that use renewable resources, and to reduce the amount of energy consumed. The research eventually could be applied to developing new packaging materials or improving the grades of paper we use every day.

The funding from Kimberly-Clark will provide Keller with the assistance of two graduate students for two years.


Release No. 20-B 2/27/04
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