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Application of Enzymes in the Pulp and Paper Industry

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Abstract

The pulp and paper industry processes huge quantities of lignocellulosic biomass every year. The technology for pulp manufacture is highly diverse, and numerous opportunities exist for the application of microbial enzymes. Historically, enzymes have found some uses in the paper industry, but these have been mainly confined to areas such as modifications of raw starch. However, a wide range of applications in the pulp and paper industry have now been identified. The use of enzymes in the pulp and paper industry has grown rapidly since the mid 1980s. While many applications of enzymes in the pulp and paper industry are still in the research and development stage, several applications have found their way into the mills in an unprecedented short period of time. Currently the most important application of enzymes is in the prebleaching of kraft pulp. Xylanase enzymes have been found to be most effective for that purpose. Xylanase prebleaching technology is now in use at several mills worldwide. This technology has been successfully transferred to full industrial scale in just a few years. The enzymatic pitch control method using lipase was put into practice in a large-scale paper-making process as a routine operation in the early 1990s and was the first case in the world in which an enzyme was successfully applied in the actual paper-making process. Improvement of pulp drainage with enzymes is practiced routinely at mill scale. Enzymatic deinking has also been successfully applied during mill trials and can be expected to expand in application as increasing amounts of newsprint must be deinked and recycled. The University of Georgia has recently opened a pilot plant for deinking of recycled paper. Pulp bleaching with a laccase mediator system has reached pilot plant stage and is expected to be commercialized soon. Enzymatic debarking, enzymatic beating, and reduction of vessel picking with enzymes are still in the R&D stage but hold great promise for reducing energy. Other enzymatic applications, i.e., removal of shives and slime, retting of flax fibers, and selective removal of xylan, are also expected to have a profound impact on the future technology of the pulp and paper-making process.

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