This January, Technische Universität Darmstadt and the Koehler Paper Group will kick off the Green Coating Collaboration, a research partnership aimed at developing functional surfaces from sustainable raw materials.
Koehler has already laid the foundation with an investment of over 300 million euros in its Kehl mill, where the company plans to produce paper-based solutions with special barrier properties. The objective is to replace plastic with sustainable paper solutions wherever possible and practical.
“We are leveraging infrastructure synergies, the core competencies, and the expertise of TU Darmstadt and Koehler in the best possible way for this innovative project,” said Dr. Markus Wildberger, corporate director of technology at Koehler, explaining the project’s intentions. “The institute for Macromolecular and Paper Chemistry at TU Darmstadt is a world-class research partner, and we are looking forward to working together.”
Within the framework of this collaboration, both Koehler employees and employees and students from TU Darmstadt will carry out joint research at the university to develop functional surfaces that are recyclable and/or biodegradable, which will allow the paper coated with these materials to be fed into the paper recycling process, the challenges of which, unlike many other materials cycles, have already been solved.
According to Dr. Markus Biesalski, who is heading up the project on behalf of TU Darmstadt, both sides are striving for a long-term collaboration and hope to expand the work between TU Darmstadt and Koehler into a permanent strategic partnership after an initial two-year phase, depending on how the project progresses.
“Koehler has an extremely well-positioned development department for a medium-sized company and brings a great deal of expertise to the table, which we will certainly benefit from,” he said, also emphasizing the expected synergies. In addition to Dr. Wildberger, Dr. Stefan Karrer and Dr. Michael Horn are both part of the team at Koehler responsible for the Green Coating Collaboration.
The Koehler Paper Group is not only one of the world’s leading manufacturers of specialty papers, but is also moving into the field of papers for flexible packaging with its new PM8 paper machine. The aim is to replace nonrecyclable plastics with paper and recyclable or compostable composites.
With over 1,800 employees at its four locations, Koehler produces more than 500,000 tons of various specialty papers and, at the same time, operates various power plants in order to be able to generate 100 percent of the energy for paper production from renewable sources in the medium term.
Part of the company is a large research and development department that, among other things, has developed the first thermal paper approved for food contact. One of the current tasks is the devel- opment of functional surfaces that have the barrier properties to replace plastics in packaging.