That clean, white piece of paper in your laser printer is the result of a not-so-clean manufacturing process. But a UMR researcher is hoping to change that by improving the way paper-makers make black and white liquor.
No, we’re not talking about white lightning, or black label. We’re talking about the chemical mixtures — called "liquors" — used in the paper-making process.
Dr. William Headrick, a post-doctoral fellow of ceramic engineering at UMR, recently received the first of three annual $200,000 grants from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop new, more efficient materials for a crucial step in the paper-making process known as black liquor gasification.
Headrick has designed and built equipment at Oak Ridge National Laboratories in Oak Ridge, Tenn., to evaluate containment materials used to make paper. One such material is black liquor, the chemical mixture used in the early process of turning wood into pulp. Black liquor is eventually recycled into "white liquor" — the stuff used to digest wood to make pulp for paper.
In his laboratory at UMR, Headrick is creating new refractory materials to enable a more economic and environmentally friendly way to obtain the white liquor.
"When all the challenges of perfecting this process are met, it will provide energy, environmental and economic benefits," says Headrick. The system would result in savings of $12 million to $17 million a year and significant reductions in carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide emissions, he says.