Undergraduates Venture on Field Trips for Real-World Experiences


Students in the Pulp and Paper Certification Program at Georgia Tech had real-world experiences outside the classroom this spring. Over 30 students taking the Emerging Technologies in the Manufacture of Forest Bioproducts course (CHBE/ME 4730/8803) took field trips to Greif’s Austell location and GranBio’s Thomaston facility in Georgia. The course is taught by Chris Luettgen, professor of the practice and initiative lead for the process efficiency & intensification of pulp paper packaging & tissue manufacturing initiative at Georgia Tech's Renewable Bioproducts Institute

At the Sweetwater Mill, one of Greif’s three paper mills in Austell, students saw the pressure cylinder machine, a pre-coater that smoothens the board for printability, and a curtain coater that makes value-added products such as one-sided chipboard packaging for retail displays. The mill runs 100% recycled fiber into stock cores, gypsum board liners, and chipboard packaging. The tour included converting the machine roll (called a parent roll) into smaller rolls that will be further converted at downstream customers’ locations. 

At the GranBio’s facility in Thomaston, Tech students were able to see a biorefinery at work where a wide variety of lignocellulosic feedstocks, including wood chips, were getting converted into multiple bioproducts. They had a firsthand look at the SEW (sulfur dioxide, ethanol, and water) process, which was quite different from the traditional kraft pulping process. It creates a highly acidic mush, with a high pH, instead of fiber, which could then be used to make biofuels and other value-added products. In addition, they were able to discuss the recent DOE award to scale their process to a 100 ton/day biomass to Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).  The company explained that they were still in site selection and would be hiring engineers in the near future.

About the Pulp and Paper Certification

The College of Engineering at Georgia Tech offers a certificate program in pulp and paper. The certificate consists of 12 credit hours focused on forest bioproduct topics, including lecture- and laboratory-based courses. Since its inception in 1990, more than 100 students have completed their certification.

The foundational course in the program introduces students to the history of pulp and paper manufacturing from its origins and covers the forest bioeconomy, wood structure, chemistry, and fiber morphology, and goes through the unit operations utilized to transform lignocellulosic feedstocks into value-added products, including chemical and mechanical pulping, recycled fiber operations, chemical recovery, bleaching, stock preparation, and papermaking.

The emerging technologies course focuses on the future of bioproducts industries. Case studies on the use of biomass in the production of value-added products are covered. Included are fluff pulp and dissolving pulps, alternative fibers, specialty papers, packaging, and printed electronics, biorefining technologies, nanocellulose and bio composites, and renewable polymers.

The pulp and paper laboratory course introduces students to pulping operations, bleaching, hand sheet formation, pulp and paper physical properties, and recycled fiber. The final course allows students to pursue research on special problems under supervision from an RBI-affiliated faculty.

Students in the program can demonstrate their proficiency in pulp and paper science and engineering and are in high demand for their expertise.

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Priya Devarajan || RBI Communications Program Manager