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Paper has been extensively used for thousands of years. It is a highly porous, bendable and foldable, but non-elastic nonwoven. Its flat structure consists of randomly arranged and connected fibrous building blocks – mainly consisting of cellulose, the most abundant renewable polymer on earth – exhibiting a broad distribution of sizes and geometries.

Previous research has focused mainly on optimization of the processing parameters and material properties for its standard applications, such as packaging, writing and printing materials or tissue paper. However, the continuously increasing demand on renewable and biocompatible materials shifts the focus of the paper research, in order to extend the scope of application of this interesting material beyond these classic application areas.

Its unique intrinsic properties and versatile modification potential predestines paper for the use as functional material for sensor technology, microfluidics and a plethora of other sophisticated applications. In order to use paper for such “high-tech applications”, fundamental understanding of the relationship between chemical constitution, production parameters and material properties is crucial. However, the complexity of the material is still highly challenging and it has to be processed, functionalized and characterized on multiscales to obtain a representative material profile.

In the multidisciplinary joint research project FIPRE (DFG funding under PAK 962/1 and associated projects), it is the goal to generate the lacking understanding of the above mentioned process-structure-property relationships, in order to enable the use of paper for new fields of application.