Singapore, paper becomes super absorbent thanks to recycling

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A university team has succeeded in creating non-toxic, flexible and waterproof cellulose aerogels starting from waste.

The new frontiers of paper recycling come from the far East. The National University of Singapore discovered a system to transform waste paper into sustainable cellulose aerogels that are non-toxic, flexible, extremely durable and water repellent.

“Our process uses 70% less energy compared to traditional systems, produces less water and air pollutants and uses less dioxins in the paper bleaching phase. And it is also faster: it only takes 3 days”, says a note from the research team.

But there’s more. The cellulose aerogels developed in Singapore have a very high oil absorbency. Thanks to the trimethoxy-methylsilane covering, they are water repellent and absorb oil while excluding water, up to 90 times their weight, which makes them up to 4 times more effective than regular commercial absorbents. Moreover, they can be squeezed to recover more than 99% of the oily substances they absorbed.

The new material could be used for packaging, for thermal insulation and for biomedical applications. Some tests have shown that complex cellulose aerogels can be used to tampon severe wounds, by injecting them directly into the cavity made for example by a bullet or a knife.

The researchers have applied for a patent for their invention in USA, China, India and South East Asia. A company already showed its interest: it is called Bronxculture and intends to produce cellulose aerogels starting with three application areas: packing boxes, insulation layers for winter clothing and absorbent materials.

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