[ASC-media] Media release: weapons for the innovation war

CRCA Media crca-media at starclass.com.au
Mon Nov 17 22:17:21 EST 2003

Co-operative Research Centres Media Release - CRCA 40

November 18, 2003


Three new technologies to give Australia an internationally competitive edge in plastics, the print media and environmentally-friendly fibres are under development in the nation's Co-operative Research Centres.

GENERATIONS OF INK MAKERS have exerted all their skills to make ink stick better to paper: today Australian scientists are in hot pursuit of a breakthrough that achieves the exact opposite.

In a bid to make the millions of tonnes of newspapers generated for the consumer society more recyclable and the printing industry more sustainable, researchers at the CRC Smartprint are devising ways to detach ink more easily, cheaply and effectively from the cellulose fibres of paper.

"Traditionally, ink has been removed by pulping, washing and aerating (or bubbling) the ink off the paper so it can be recycled," says CRC Smartprint CEO Mr Rod Urquhart. "But the better the inks became, the harder it was to remove them - and more energy and larger plants were needed to do it."

"Our team is investigating how the ink layer wets its cellulose substrate, and whether modifying the paper fibres by grafting on to them hydrophilic (water attracting) chemical groups will enable the water to get under the ink and so "float" it off during the washing phase."

A major investigation is also in progress to redesign the equipment used to separate the detached ink particles. This includes studying the efficiency of aeration, and how ink particles are picked up by the bubbles and carried to the surface of the tank.

The third element is of the work is development of a test to show accurately how much ink has been removed - and how much is left adhering to the paper fibres. Without this, it will be difficult to fine-tune the de-inking process.

"The results of this final step could change forever the thinking of ink chemists worldwide. Balancing ink application properties with ink removability may become the new yardstick of printing success," Mr Urquart says.

More information:
Mr Rod Urquhart, CRC Smartprint, 03 9905 3456
Ms Astrid Sweres, CRC Smartprint, 0412 186 018

AN INTERNATIONAL licensing agreement has been signed between Ciba Specialty Chemicals (Ciba) and the Cooperative Research Centre for Polymers (CRC-P), covering a new technology for recycling carbonated soft drink bottles. Using this technology, PET (polyethylene terephthalate) from soft drink bottles can be used again to produce new bottles.

The technology increases the melt strength of molten PET and thus improves its processing properties.  With the licensing agreement, the technology could provide a competitive edge in the global packaging industry.

There are wider applications for the technology.  For example, the PET used to make bottles has limited processing properties, which restrict or preclude its use in operations such as film blowing, thermoforming and foam extrusion, where good melt strength is required.  The CRC-P technology provides a solution to this problem, opening the way to improved PET-based products including packaging films, food trays and containers.  

The patented technology was developed within the Centre over six years in a collaborative project involving researchers from CSIRO Molecular Science, Monash University and VisyPak.

The research team developed the technology using a state-of-the-art reactive processing facility within the CRC-P.  This includes a laboratory extruder modified so that researchers can precisely monitor the processing properties of polymers and study the effects of varying parameters that change them.  Initially the process was optimised in the laboratory, and then an extensive series of production trials followed, resulting in refinements that made the technology suitable for use in large-scale production.

VisyPak then took an exclusive licence for the use of the technology in Australia and New Zealand, and are using it in the commercial production of packaging trays.  

Dr Ian Dagley, CEO of the CRC-P, says this as an excellent example of how the Australian Government's Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Program is maximising the benefits that research provides to Australia.  

"The CRC Program funding allowed us to establish the world-class facilities needed to undertake this research, and to bring together the complementary research skills needed from several different organisations to create the technology.  Transferring new technology into the market place is difficult, but the CRC Program model, where companies are partners in the research, has helped us achieve this. One of our commercial partners, VisyPak, is maximising the benefits to Australia by commercialising this technology locally. Another partner, Ciba, has the global networks in place to see that this technology is rapidly and more widely exploited in global markets."

More information:
Dr Ian Dagley, CRC-P	03 9558 8111 

PESTICIDE use in the Australian cotton industry is set to fall with the commercialisation of a new product with a fatal attraction to pests.

The Australian Cotton CRC has signed a commercial agreement with Ag Biotech Australia to develop, manufacture and market Australia's first adult moth attractant for the voracious cotton pest, the cotton bollworm.

Appropriately named MAGNET, the lure is based on smells identical to ones emitted by plants which affect insect behaviour.

Associate Professor Peter Gregg from The University of New England, who led the attractant project, says trial results indicate great potential for reducing pest numbers - with little effect on friendly insects.

"MAGNET provides a new tool for managing cotton bollworm, allowing growers to reduce use of insecticides, and providing significant advantage to their integrated pest management programs," he says.

In the trial, in which 1.5 per cent of the cotton field was sprayed with the attractant mixed with an insecticide, the researchers estimated they had killed 28,500 moths - reducing the number of caterpillars that would potentially hatch to eat the crop by around 13 million. 

"The number of moths killed will depend on the numbers which are present. Timing of attractant applications, in relation to the local ecology of cotton bollworm species, is likely to be a critical factor in their effectiveness," Dr. Gregg said.

Another experiment using attractants without insecticide added found the material had some weak attraction to ladybirds, but none to lacewings, wasps, spiders and other beneficial groups. 

The detection of both local and district impacts on bollworm pressure suggests that if larger areas were treated, the attractant might be able to substantially reduce pest pressure - and pesticide use - over a wide area and for a long period.

The Cotton CRC and Ag Biotech are jointly seeking registration of the new attractant, which will undergo evaluation trials over 10,000 hectares of cotton this summer, subject to approval by government regulatory authorities. 

Returns from the project will be used to fund further research. 

More information:
Peter Gregg (Cotton CRC/UNE) 02 6773 2665
Anthony Hawes (Ag Biotech) 07 3357 2002 Mobile 0425 232 052

Julian Cribb, CRCA Media, 0418 639 245

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