Research and development Innovation as a team task
At the Research & Development division at AustroCel Hallein, an international team with scientific expertise focuses on new products and innovative solutions. The team consists of men and women from the areas of chemistry, biotechnology and process engineering who, with considerable curiosity and enthusiasm, continue driving the vision of the biorefinery forward on a daily basis.
They think laterally, think outside the box and pursue unconventional ideas with the goal of gaining innovative solutions. Their discussions with the colleagues at the plant who are responsible for the products and processes is just as important as the cooperation with universities, technical colleges and leading platforms, such as the Bio-Refinery Innovation Lab.
To reduce our water consumption and the use of chemicals, we are working on a physical separation process for the sorting of the pulp. The resulting fine-fibre portion should be processed further, and not disposed of as a degradation product.
Developing pulp specialties
In addition to the continuous optimisation of the pulp for the textile industry, our development department focuses on specialty pulps for a variety of applications in the industrial sector. This involves specialty qualities which are developed in close consultation with our customers. These are pulps that are customised for our customers in the course of a joint development process.
For this purpose, our Research & Development team is able to access a laboratory-sized pulp production plant at the company’s in-house pilot plant. This allows new ideas to be tried and tested quickly and flexibly, before promising qualities are then brought to market maturity at the large-scale plant.
Embarking on new paths
Making use of wood and the by-products of pulp production so that all cycles are ultimately closed and no waste is produced is the key vision that drives AustroCel Hallein. Much has already been achieved – such as generating energy from waste heat and producing bio-ethanol from the sugar in the brown liquor. But a lot more is still possible.
Our Research & Development team is working on these possibilities. The brown liquor produced during the pulping process contains lignin, for example, which offers considerable potential for the replacement of petroleum-based products. The bio-ethanol produced at the site could also be the starting point for other products, and the biogenic CO2 produced during the fermentation is also a valuable material which is of interest to the world of industry.
Another of the team’s areas of work is the continuous improvement of the cycles in the production processes. For example, the wastewater from bleaching could be used more efficiently to produce biogas.
Our shared enthusiasm is our impetus. We have created an innovation team to look more specifically into opportunities to advance the circular economy.