Novel method for paper production can reduce the paper industry’s reliance on wood by turning cow and elephant dung into paper
Researchers from University of Vienna explained that animals can save the paper industry energy by performing the breakdown functions themselves. The study was presented at the annual national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans on April 4, 2018. Conventional methods for paper production involve the chemical and mechanical breakdown of raw wood into pulp that can be turned into paper products, which is an energy intensive process.
In Africa, sanctuaries, reservations, and national parks host thousands of elephants. Dung is available in massive quantities. The same goes for cattle ranches in Europe and North America. The method mentioned by new study involves use of sodium hydroxide solution treatment to separate lignin and impurities, including dead cells, from the cellulose. The separated cellulose is bleached with sodium hypochlorite. No additional processes are needed to break down the celluloses before its entry into conventional paper production methods. The digestion process inside the guts of cows and elephants works to grind the cellulose into nanofibers.
According to the new study, depending on the animal, up to 40% of manure is cellulose, which is easily accessible. “Animals eat low-grade biomass containing cellulose, chew it and expose it to enzymes and acid in their stomach, and then produce manure,” said Alexander Bismarck, a professor of advanced materials at the University of Vienna. The nanopaper produced by processing animal dung can have applications in a variety of products such as wastewater filtering systems. Furthermore, scientists are working on exploring the possibility of combing nanocellulose derivation process with other technologies, which can effectively turn animal manure into fuel resources.