Wei Chen has invented a chemical additive that increases the wet-web strength of paper, preserves recyclability and uses less water than before in papermaking. It provides a potential green solution to the critical issue of wet-web paper breakage.
Chen studied how linear polyvinylamine derivatized with phenylboronic acid improved the instantaneous wet adhesion between cellulose surfaces. Earlier research concluded that polyvinylamine microgels are better paper strength-enhancing polymers than linear polymer. He developed a microgel production method that makes them more uniform and demonstrates that they provide exceptionally strong adhesion.
This invention could have major implications for recycling. Less energy is required to recycle paper products made with boronic acid-based additives compared to traditional additives because the bond created using Chen’s process is weaker than a hydrogen bond and is easily broken at acid condition.