By Peng Xiaowei, Zhao Junying, Zhang Yuzhen
（National Key Laboratory of Biochemical Engineering）
Zou Jiahua, the former vice premier, vice chairman of National People`s Congress (NPC )Standing Committee attended the special report meeting organized by the NPC Environmental and Resources Protection Committee on April 18. He listened to reports on steam explosion technology industrialization given by Prof. Chen Hongzhang, researcher of the Institute of Process Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IPE-CAS).
Prof. Chen reported his work on three aspects including: steam explosion straw application in the papermaking process, technology about converting steam explosion straw into butanol and degumming with steam explosion technology to produce pineapple leaf fiber and solve the problem about pollution in hemp degumming.
Chen introduced that steam explosion technology was a new, efficient, clean, low-cost and pollution-free physical method with independent intellectual property rights. Steam explosion was to break the tight structure of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin with steam at high temperature and pressure. So that 80% hemicellulose degradated into soluble sugar, losing the structure and exposing hydroxyl of the components. Therefore, it’s conducive to the subsequent separation of lignin and utilization of cellulose. In the process of pineapple leaf fiber preparing and hemp degumming, water vapor adsorbed in the hole and the gap of cellulose ejected instantly when the steam decompressed suddenly, so fiber got mechanical separation. Hemp degumming process did not add any chemicals, therefore the cost of chemicals was saved and environment pollution was eliminated. This technology had been industrialized in the paper making, hemp degumming, butanol and ethanol production process.
Zou was pleasant to hear about the industrialization of steam explosion technology. He said that solar energy and paper making were two of the most concerned problems when he worked in NPC, and it would promote economic development to apply steam explosion technology in papermaking industry. Then he asked questions about the technologies and said that steam explosion technology could be applied in expansion field. Prof. Chen introduced the flow charts and achievements in the cooperative companies. Firstly, Lvlu Zoology Industrial Ltd. Co. in Heze City Shandong Province set up a line for co-production of 100 thousand of corrugated paper, 5 thousand of xylo-oligosaccharides and 60 thousand of organic fertilizer per year based on the core technology of steam explosion.This line solved the problem of pollution in traditional paper making industry and realized the objective of complete utilization of straw biomass. Secondly, the process of hemicellulose butanol production and straw refinery based on the technology of steam explosion in Laihe Chemical Ltd. Co. in Songyuan City, Jilin Province, where a production line for 300 thousand tons straw refining per year set up in August, 2010. The production line had the capability of producing 50 thousand tons of butanol, 50 thousand tons of polyols and 20 thousand tons of phenolic aldehyde glue using straw as the feedstock. IPE also cooperated with Saiterui Science Development Ltd. Co. to exploit hemp degumming technology with steam eplosion. The degumming technology has been applied to produce pineapple leaf fiber in Xuwen County Guangdong Province as pilot test and produce hemp fiber in Xingxing Light Textile Ltd. Co. in Luan City Anhui Province. Traditional degumming method relied on strong acid and alkali which led to hard pollution and was prohibited severely. However, steam explosion method for natural fiber degumming did not need any acid or alkali and saved 60% of the energy. Zou provided some advices when he heard about the technology to produce pineapple leaf fiber with steam explosion technology. He highly affirmed that it was meaningful to convert the abundant pineapple leaf into fibers with steam explosion technology because there was plenty of pineapple leaf in Guangdong Province. Zou knew that institute was strong to research but weak to industrialization, so he would hand these files to the Guangdong party committee and hoped to do this project.
After the report, Zou presented his final hope. Firstly, he gave thanks to the novel technology researched by IPE and was pleased to see its industrialization. He had worked in institute before and knew that most of the basic research was locked in the drawer after paper reporting. So he said it was a direction to pay more attention to process research and industrialization as what had been done in the Institute of Process Engineering. In addition, Zou highly affirmed the steam explosion technology in the term of utilizing the whole straw without residues. and encouraged to further research and extend steam explosion technology because there was 600 to 700 million tons straw in China with low utilization rate. He also advised to find some small paper mill and hemp textile companies as pilot to solve the pollution in papermaking and chemical degumming process. The general manager Wang Kaili of Beijing Saiterui Technology Development Ltd. Co. also took part in this meeting.