The Science of Making Paper

By: Paige Lambrecht
By: Paige Lambrecht

Before paper ever reaches your home, the chemists and scientists at the Biron Research Center in Wisconsin Rapids have already thoroughly checked it out. Their duties are widespread. They help develop new products and figure out ways to increase the mill's efficiency.

Vice President Allan Glinski says, "The knowledge that is required to make paper and stay on the leading edge is in a whole variety of areas. The chemistry is important, the physics of how things are made is important."

But these scientists play one of their most important roles when something goes wrong. It's often their job to figure out what's causing the problem, and as researcher Rick Peterson points out it's not always easy.

"While paper machines are very big and we make a lot of paper, very small particles can really goof things up," says Rick.

Preventing problems from ever happening is another key part of the work that goes on here. The researchers try out every procedure and product on a much smaller scale first, so hundreds of feet of paper won't be wasted if the product doesn't live up to expectations.

Fans of the show CSI might recognize one of their pieces of equipment, the scanning electron microscope. On the show it's used to help solve murders. At the research center it's used to take a very close look at a piece of paper.

But Peterson says it's not as glamorous as CSI.

"No one's getting killed or anything, but it can result in a lot of loss financially."

Every aspect of the paper making process is tested here first. The Biron Research Center is also constantly developing new technology and products. It's a part of the paper mill business that not many people might think about, but one that Glinski says plays a vital role to the future of Stora Enso.

"You can't keep doing what you've always done with the same materials you've always done or the competition will pass you by."

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