The nation’s first cellulose nanofiber pilot plant


A ribbon cutting to mark the opening of the nation’s first cellulose nanofiber pilot plant and a keynote address by U.S. Sen. Angus King will highlight the 63rd annual Paper Days at the University of Maine, April 3–4.

Innovation, with a focus on biobased nanoparticles and biofuels, is the theme of this year’s Paper Days, coordinated by the University of Maine Pulp & Paper Foundation and expected to draw more than 300 industry leaders, researchers and students from throughout the U.S. and Europe. An estimated 60 paper companies and engineering firms are expected to send representatives.

The event is designed to facilitate the connection between the university and industry by getting UMaine students and faculty, and industry representatives together to learn about the latest topics in the field and to network, says Jack Healy, executive director of the UMaine Pulp & Paper Foundation.

Following a luncheon and address by Larry Montague, president and CEO of TAPPI, there will be seminars on biobased nanoparticle opportunities led by Alan Rudie, Forest Products Laboratory; Robert Moon, Purdue University; and UMaine alumna Beth Cormier, Sappi Paper and Agenda 2020 Technology Alliance. All occur in Wells Conference Center.

Tours of Jenness Hall will focus on the Process Development Center, which is observing its 25th anniversary, and the Cellulose Nanofiber Pilot Plant, funded by a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Forest Service.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the pilot plant begins at 3:30 p.m. in D.P. Corbett Business Building. Expected to be on hand to offer remarks will be UMaine President Paul Ferguson; Michael Rains, USDA Forest Service; Theodore Wegner, Forest Products Laboratory; and Sean Ireland, TAPPI and Verso Paper Inc.

The pilot plant manufactures cellulose nanofibers (CNF), a wood-based reinforcing material that is increasingly of interest to researchers worldwide in the development of high-value materials. Last year, UMaine and the Forest Products Laboratory began a research collaboration on the conversion of wood components into novel nanomaterials; the incorporation of an array of nanomaterials into forest products to increase their functionality, durability and end-use performance; and development of new generations of high-performance wood-based materials.

UMaine is in a consortium with the Forest Products Lab, six other universities and numerous industrial partners pursuing research using CNF. Nanomaterial has applications in automobile components, paint and coating additives, composites and filtration media.

The Paper Days honors banquet begins at 6 p.m. in Wells Conference Center featuring a keynote address by Sen. King, and award and scholarship presentations.

Also being announced is a leadership gift by Sappi Fine Paper North America to help launch the UMaine Pulp and Paper Foundation’s $2 million fundraising campaign for scholarships.

The following day, Paper Days participants will tour the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute’s Technology Research Center in Old Town, Maine, followed by an industry panel discussion, “Biofuels in the Face of Changing U.S. Energy Availability.” At the luncheon that day, Frederick Clark of EKA Chemicals will speak on “The Business Case for Sustainability.”

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745; 207.949.4149; Pros Bennett, 207.581.2281