Pulp, Paper, Packaging and Tissue

From tree to tissue, or to package, or to stationery, magazine or newspaper or thousands of other products—pulping liberates fibers from woody plants and rearranges them into a consistently formed end products.  The science rests in efficient processes that conserve energy and raw materials while producing the desired product. 

Paper Mill Floor showing roll of paper



In the 1950s, the kraft chemical pulping process became the dominant technology for isolating wood fiber from chips.  While this produces strong pulp and efficient recovery of raw materials and energy, the yield is below ideal and has an inherent capital intensity for the investor.  RBI researchers are developing improvements in next generation pulping to address these challenges.

We are exploring pretreatment options to make fiber separation more efficient, and improving yields.  A number of catalysis options, including biochemical methods, are under investigation.  Biorefining processes are converting cellulose and lignin into sugars, fuels, and chemical intermediates and feedstocks.

Advanced processes under investigation include modeling tools for evaporation of water from spent pulping liquor and techniques to eliminate equipment fouling. Advanced membrane technologies are expanding capabilities for cost-effective separation of organics and inorganics from spent pulping liquor. This opens up new possibilities for reducing energy intensity and even more efficient reuse of process streams. 

Understanding the pathways of erosion and corrosion, and developing means to eliminate them, can save millions in maintenance and replacement costs, as well as lost production.  Analysis and testing capabilities include thermodynamic prediction and modeling of corrosion processes and recommendations for improved metallurgy to address the aggressive environments in these applications.


At RBI, we continue to explore the seemingly limitless possibilities of paper. As the successor to the Institute of Paper Chemistry founded in 1929 by leaders of the pulp and paper industry, our mission is to create a body of knowledge and advance the industry.  

Our researchers are working to understand and manage new ways in which:
• molecular structures in fibers can be coaxed to bond (or not)
• the structure of a sheet can be formed
• moisture, gases, oil and grease can be absorbed or repelled
• inks can be accepted or released
• formation and de-watering will improve manufacturing and energy efficiency

These mechanisms and more are creating inspiration for new products of the 21st century. Operational excellence is our goal.   

In taking the industry into this new era of technology and application of science, we continue to develop paper-based substrates and biocomposites for applications in electronics used in smart packaging; high-strength, light-weight panels for aviation and automotive uses; advanced technologies for paper, packaging and films; strength and fracture characteristics of paper for packaging; superamphiphobic paper for water and grease repellency; and auxetic papers that expand when stretched. 

Innovative technologies have resulted in new applications, products and materials from renewable, sustainable forest biomass.

New Product Innovations

RBI continues to address challenges and opportunities in fiber engineering and paper physics to yield a step-change in paper/packaging product performance. For those members who utilize the fundamental knowledge embedded in our faculty and staff, RBI creates a competitive edge and insight into the future of forest products. 

In the area of consumer products, technologies such as light dry crepe and through-air drying, non-woven technologies such as spunbond, meltblown and spunlace are included in the expertise of our faculty. The application of biomaterials will be expanded in consumer products within the next few years across the spectrum of disposables and single-use plastics to create a more sustainable offering within this segment of the industry. 

Some of the new product innovations in paper board include smart packaging, coating solutions, printed electronics, renewable binders and adhesives and other chemicals with high value to customers, consumers and society as a whole. The future advances and technologies in these areas are sure to touch every aspect of daily life around the globe.

Areas of Expertise: 
Advanced Packaging Technology
New Coatings & Barriers 
Dissolving Pulp & Regenerated Cellulose
Paper & Board Mechanics
Printing Technology
Pulp and Paper Manufacturing 

Key Contacts:

For more information on RBI’s initiatives on Pulp, Paper, Packaging, and Tissue, and how to get involved, please contact one of our key contacts working in the area.

Portrait of Chris Luettgen

Chris Luettgen

Professor of the Practice, School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Director, Undergraduate Pulp & Paper Certificate Program 
Email: chris.luettgen@rbi.gatech.edu

RBI Initiative Lead: Process Efficiency & Intensification of Pulp Paper Packaging & Tissue Manufacturing 
Portrait of J Carson Meredith

J. Carson Meredith

Professor, School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Executive Director of the Renewable Bioproducts Institute 

Email: carson.meredith@chbe.gatech.edu

Portrait of Rallming Yang

Rallming Yang

Research Scientist II, Renewable Bioproducts Institute

Email: rallming.yang@rbi.gatech.edu