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Novel device to study pulp suspensions behaviour in order to move towards zero energy losses in papermaking

Final Report Summary - NODESZELOSS (Novel device to study pulp suspensions behaviour in order to move towards zero energy losses in papermaking)

The general objective of this project was to develop a novel device to study pulp suspensions behaviour in order to move towards zero energy losses in papermaking, which is a specific need of a group of SMEs from different countries for cost reduction. This objective was addressed by a group of RTD performers that carried out the majority of the required scientific and technological research while SMEs took care of the validation and application of the new device. The new device could be applied to reduce costs and to improve process performance at the mills (SMEs) which will contribute to increase its competitiveness. This objective:
- Supported SMEs to respond to the pressures for continuous innovation and technological adaptation by delivering a new device that will be used at the mills to reduce costs, energy, maintenance and retention aids costs mainly, and to improve their performance.
- Facilitated cooperation in research activities between SMEs and RTD performers at national and international level.
- Enabled SMEs to benefit from the advantages of networking for innovation.
- The publication of the results, after being protected, contributes to increase the potential impact of the project.

The specific objectives of the project were:
- To develop a novel device to study pulp suspensions behaviour and built a precommercial prototype.
- To generate knowledge on pulp suspension flows. The goal was to determine the fluid dynamics behaviour of different pulp suspensions.
- To explore the potential application of the new device to improve equipment design and avoid over sizing.
- To explore the potential application of the new device to optimise wet end chemistry.
- To disseminate and exploit the results obtained in the project through a plan for using and disseminating knowledge.

The work started with a market research and the definition of proper routes for dissemination and exploitation of the results obtained during the project. This task required strong collaboration and commitment between the SMEs. At the same time, four laboratory devices were built to be used in parallel by RTDs performers. An important result of this task was a patent deposition.

The rotational viscometer for fibre suspensions consists of a cylindrical vessel whose diameter is 200 mm with three fix segmented plates that contains the fluid to study and a rotor with three segmented plates whose diameter is 150 mm, which is suspended into it and spun around its axis by a motor at a given rotational speed, thus producing the shear action on the fluid. This design maintains a uniform distribution in heterogeneous fibre suspensions and avoids the formation of a fibre plug between the measuring elements.

Although the device could be used for many applications in which pulp suspensions behaviour is important, in order to demonstrate the usefulness of the new device only two potential applications were studied: the potential applications in equipment design; the design of pumps and pipes and the potential application for wet end optimisation. The effect of different variables on pulp rheology and pressure drop was studied and the influence of flocculant properties and dosage on pulp rheology was determined. A technical report for the design of pumps and pipes for papermaking that could be used as a reference document for a new standard in Europe and a design abacus were prepared and protected trough the correspondent copyrights.

New linear and branched flocculants were developed and the influence of flocculant characteristics and dosage on flocculation, floc properties and pulp rheology was determined, using the focused beam reflectance measurement (FBRM), light diffraction spectroscopy (LDS) and the viscometer developed.

Once the equipment was developed at laboratory scale and the potential applications were demonstrated, a pre-commercial prototype was built.

The following expected end results of the project were achieved:
- Creation of knowledge in flow properties of pulp suspensions that would open opportunities for applying these concepts in the pulp preparation stages in the paper industry in the future.
- Creation of knowledge in flow properties of complex suspensions systems that could be applied to other important industrial sectors: food processing, cosmetic, polymer science, etc.
- Generation of friction-loss curves for different pulp suspensions that could be used for the development of software tools to design pipes and pumps for the paper industry.
- Evaluation of chemical strategies for wet end control. Specifically, new flocculants, in both powdered and inverse-emulsions forms were tested.
- Three laboratory prototypes and one pre-commercial prototype of a novel device to study the behaviour of pulp suspensions.

The direct expected applications and potentially patentable ideas from the obtained results were:
- A novel device. One of the SMEs would have the task to commercialise this device worldwide.
- Chart for technical design with friction factor for pulp suspensions.
- Technical information for pump and pipe design.