Developing fluff pulp from agro-based, non-wood fibers

“Fluff” pulp is primarily made of a cellulose-based fiber network that effectively distributes and absorbs the fluid in the absorbent core. Our Fiber Technology Department focuses on the following research areas to make the absorbent core of our products as sustainable as possible:

1. Eco-friendly pulping methods
2. Optimizing fluff pulp parameters for the best performance

Alternative sources of cellulose to replace wood pulp

Typically, fluff pulp is made from softwood fibers (pine wood) or hardwood fibers (eucalyptus). At Sparkle, we believe in circular solutions. Besides focusing our efforts on upcycling banana fiber (the agro-waste produced during banana farming), we are also studying several other non-wood, agro-based materials such as bagasse fibers (sugar cane fiber that is a by-product of sugar production) which are currently waste materials.

As alternative sources to replace wood pulp, we are also working on a number of other natural fibers such as jute, hemp, flax, kenaf, sisal and ramie, among many others.

Compared to wood-based cellulose, these natural fibers are easily available in different geographic regions, have shorter, yearly growth cycles, and are able to adapt to various growth conditions, which makes them more sustainable.

Eco-friendly pulping methods

Before the wood-based fibers can be turned into soft and absorbent fluff pulp, they have to go through a chemical, mechanical, chemi-thermo-mechanical (CTMP) pulping process. During the pulping process, cellulose fibers are separated and lignin is removed (which acts as a glue that holds the cellulose fibers together). Often, the pulping process of “degumming” or “delignification” uses harsh alkaline or acidic treatments.

Our Fiber Technology Department conducts research on innovative and sustainable pulping methods that can replace the intense chemical treatments via alternate mechanical refining, biological enzyme treatments, or other eco-friendly chemical treatments to reduce the pollution caused by conventional pulping processes.

Optimizing fluff pulp parameters for best performance

Once the pulping process is completed, the wet pulp is converted into dry fluff pulp rolls. These rolls are then defiberized on our production line into separate individual fibers that form a porous fiber network in the absorbent cores of our products. There are a number of parameters that affect not only the performance of fluff pulp, but also the energy required to fiberize the pulp sheet during the dry-forming process.

Fluff pulp testing

Our Fiber Technology Department concentrates on optimizing fiber length with the right mix of long fibers and short fibers so that we can have proper fluid distribution through capillary forces as well as ensuring optimal retention and rewet values while reducing knots’ (the fiber bundles) content.