Alkali Extraction of Kraft Pulp Fibers: Influence on Fiber and Fluff Pulp Properties
Journal article, 2012
The importance of hemicelluloses for the papermaking properties of pulp fibers is well documented. In the patent literature, it can be seen that there is also an interest in this type of modification of pulp fibers for use in absorption products. In this study, a Scandinavian softwood kraft pulp and a birch kraft pulp were alkali extracted at 3 different concentrations of NaOH (2%, 4% and 8% NaOH in the suspension). The alkali extraction removed a large part of the hemicelluloses from the pulp fibers and decreased the content of the charged groups. After extraction, the pulps were dried in the form of sheets (approx. 600 g/m(2)). The alkali extracted pulp fibers exhibited a greater decrease in swelling when re-wetted than untreated pulp. A significant increase in the curl index after extraction with 4% and 8% NaOH was also noted. The tensile strength index of the formed sheets increased at the lowest concentration of NaOH and, at the higher concentrations, a decrease was observed. The pulp sheets were dry defibrated at different defibration intensities and the performance of the resulting pulps in fluff pulp applications was studied. The air-laid fiber networks of softwood pulp fibers showed higher network strength than the networks of birch pulps. The birch pulp extracted at the highest alkali level tended to give the highest network strength. The results from the network strength tests also indicated that the increased curl of the fibers from the softwood pulp extracted at the highest alkali level rendered a more flexible fiber network. In water absorption tests, the alkali treated softwood fibers tended to give networks with a somewhat enhanced water holding capacity under pressure.