UBCO and Canfor to collaborate on pulp fibres study

A pulp and paper industry giant has awarded two UBC engineering professors a $75,000 grant over three years.

An industry giant in pulp and paper products has awarded two UBC engineering professors for research knowledge leveraged across both the Point Grey and Kelowna campuses.

Canfor Pulp Limited Partnership (CPLP) presented the award—the first instalment of a $75,000 grant over three years—to professors André Phillion and Mark Martinez.

The professors are studying the structure of Canfor’s northern bleached softwood kraft (NBSK) pulp fibres for their research project, ttiled “Three-Dimensional Structure & Strength Characterization of Pulp Fibre.”

Phillion, an assistant professor with the School of Engineering at UBC Okanagan, explores the field of materials science through modelling, microscopy and 3-D imaging using X-ray technologies.

Martinez, a chemical engineering professor, conducts research in the Advanced Fibre Processing Laboratory at UBC’s Pulp and Paper Centre in Vancouver.

The combined work by Phillion and Martinez provides new insight into strengthening mechanisms in NBSK pulp.

“First, the research will focus on characterizing paper architecture using 3-D X-ray tomographic microscopy, a technique similar to CT imaging but on a much smaller scale,” said Phillion.

“Second, models will be developed to predict the strength of paper produced under different refining conditions based on the 3-D structure of the pulp fibres.

“This work is part of a series of research efforts at UBC that will lead to best practices guidelines for processing of NBSK fibres and mixing with hardwood pulp.”

CPLP’s CEO Joe Nemeth says the UBC project has multiple benefits.

“This project will help us better understand our fibre, and it complements a project on pulp refining we are now supporting in the UBC Pulp and Paper Centre,” he said.

Nemeth also praised CPLP’s new affiliation with the School of Engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus, and the collaboration between the two campuses.

James Olson, director of the UBC Pulp and Paper Centre, said, “Canfor Pulp’s investment will directly support faculty and graduate student research aimed at serving the needs of current and future industry.

“This university/industry research partnership is a shining example of how we can work together to ensure B.C. has the opportunity to lead the transformation into forest based bio-materials, fuels and products economy.”

The award is the first in a grants program announced by Canfor in June 2011 to foster collaborative research in the pulp and paper industry.