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History/Background

Steam explosion has been applied to wood processing since the late 1800ís (Avellar, 1990). During the 1940ís and 1950ís, stream explosion was a guide to chemists in the manufacture of highly purified celluloses for rayon, cellophane and cellulose plastics (Marchessault, 1988).

 

A new impetus developed in the 1960's, as environmental issues became dominant. New bleaching and pulping method attracted attention as high-yield pulping sought to minimize the enormous cost of anti-pollution measures that were required for modern pulp mills (Avellar, 1990).

 

Rayon and cellophane production declined as new polymers with less pollution problems appeared on the scene (Avellar, 1990).

 

Due to the effects of the Petroleum crisis in the 1970ís, stream explosion has been considered as a process for the economical production of chemicals, food, and polymers (Avellar, 1990).

 

In the 1980ís, solid waste such as paper, cardboard, newspaper, and plastics bags have been put in landfills at a faster rate than landfills could be hold (Avellar, 1990). It is still an important issue today, as the public is more concerned about building any new landfills near their properties. Less landfills can be used, but the amount of solid waste is still increasing due the increase in population.

 

Therefore, reducing the amount of solid waste by recycling through steam explosion became the major purpose of the future uses of steam explosion (Avellar, 1990). Steam explosion is a separation process, which offers several attractive features when compared to the alternative hydrolysis and pulping processes that are practiced today (Marchessault, 1988). These include the potential for significantly lowering environmental impact, lowering capital investment, more potential for energy efficiency, less hazardous chemicals produced, and more complete recovery of all wood biopolymers in a useable form (Marchessault, 1988).