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Paper Pulping Process Introduction

Paper has come a long way before it began to be manufactured in the form in which we now know it. Invented in China, from the very beginning it was an important medium of information, back then silk and linen fibers were used in its production. Currently, the starting material for the production of cellulose pulp, from which paper is made, are various types of fibrous plant materials obtained, among others, from coniferous and deciduous trees, but also from other plants, e.g. from flax, bamboo or cotton.
papermaking process
The paper production process consists of several stages. In the first stage the fragmentation and purification of the pulp take place, which may be of primary origin (wood) or secondary (waste paper). The main source of cellulose fibers is wood obtained in sawmills under several forms, e.g. as logs, wood chips or sawdust.
In the next stage, the fibrous material undergoes further processing, where it is converted into pulp, which is next processed into paper. The production of pulp can be held by mechanical or chemical methods. In the chemical pulping process, alkali (e.g., sodium hydroxide in the form of a lye or caustic soda) is usually used to remove the lignin that binds the fibers.
chemical pulping process and mechanical pulping process
The use of defoamers at every stage of paper production is also crucial. Defoaming substances are used in the manufacturing process of all types of paper products. Foam is created by mixing gases with cellulose pulp and is retained in it due to the presence of surfactants. Products from the PCC Group’s offer can be successfully used for the removal of foam produced in the next stages of paper production. These include EO / PO block copolymers (ROKAmer) and a series of alkoxylated fatty alcohols (ROKAnol LP). Their high effectiveness in the elimination of foam and in the prevention of its formation enables an improvement in the efficiency of subsequent technological steps.

Chemical methods of pulping

Chemical pulping processes mainly consist of the use of various chemical reagents as well as heat to soften the lignin. As a result, it is dissolved and then mechanically refined to separate the fibers. In practice, two different chemical pulping processes are used.
chemical pulping process
The first of these is the kraft pulping process, also known as a sulfate process. Currently, it is the dominant technology – about 80% of the world production of pulp is processed using this method. Kraft pulping has become the most commonly used method due to several factors. Sulfate processed fibers have better durability compared to those obtained as a result of other available technologies. In addition, it can be used for all types of wood, and the process itself allows effective recovery of the chemical raw materials used.
The kraft process consists of combining wood chips with white liquor (it is an aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulphide). Under conditions of elevated pressure and temperature, this solution dissolves lignin, releasing cellulosic fibers. After completing the digestion reaction, a black liquor and cellulose pulp is obtained. The liquor contains dissolved organic substances that are recovered and can be used in the chemical process again. Lignin is removed from the mass in the process of oxygen delignification (in the presence of oxygen and sodium hydroxide). The material obtained in this way is bleached in order to achieve appropriate performance, such as strength, brightness and purity of the final product.
The second process of chemical digestion is the sulphite process. It consists of using an aqueous solution of sulfur dioxide in the presence of alkalis (e.g. calcium, magnesium, sodium and ammonium). The products obtained in this process are lighter and easier to whiten, however, they have much lower strength compared to the more frequently used sulphate pulping. The sulphite process also requires careful selection of wood raw material – this method is intolerant, for example for pine wood. The sulphite process compared to kraft pulping is more efficient, produces less unpleasant gases and also allows to obtain a very light pulp, which is easily leached. Unfortunately, due to the lower fiber quality, higher energy consumption and low recoverability of the chemical raw materials used in the process, sulfite technology has been replaced by the kraft process.

Mechanical methods of pulping

Mechanical pulping provides a very high yield of pulp from wood. The main processes used on an industrial scale is the process of stone groundwood pulping (SGW), the thermomechanical pulping (TMP) and chemo thermomechanical pulping (CTMP) process.
mechanical paper pulping
Groundwood pulp is obtained in the process of abrading wood on the stone at atmospheric pressure. The wood (from which the bark has been previously removed) is pulped using stone and then washed with water. The prepared mass is dried in hydrocyclones, from where it is transported to the compactor. In the next stage, dense wood mass is transported to the vat and the circulating water (filtrate) is recycled back to the pulp mill. During the production of pulp from processed wood, resinous substances are released, which easily agglomerate and create sediment on the grinder or internal walls of the pipelines. They often cause fouling of the surface of the stone, which worsens its abrasive properties. In order to remove these so-called “resin problems” various chemical agents are used. The most commonly used agent for this purpose are dispersants, which are designed to disperse deposits which are formed, facilitating their subsequent removal. The products of the ROKAcet and ROKAfenol series are excellent dispersants dedicated to the pulp and paper industry. In addition to their dispersing capabilities, these products can act as cleaning agents, emulsifiers and anti-electrostatic agents. ROKAfenols are perfect for the emulsification and stain removal processes of paper pulp and cellulose. While ROKAcet R40W is a product with a softening property that can be used in the textile, leather and paper industry.
The improvement of the SGW method is the thermomechanical pulping (TMP). In the TMP process, wood chips are initially washed to remove sand, stones and other hard impurities, then heated by steam under increased pressure, and further pulped in a disc mill. In the next stage, the mass is transported to the vat, where straightening and elimination of deformation of the fibers takes place. Finally, it is directed to the storage tank. In order to reduce the amount of harmful resins formed in the TMP process, similar chemicals are used as in the SGW process. The mass created in this way is most often used for the production of newsprint.
The CTMP process combines the TMP process together with the chemical impregnation of chips. In the first phase, they are washed and sieved and then impregnated. Depending on the type of wood, appropriate chemical solutions are used. Sodium sulphate is usually used for softwood, while alkaline peroxides are usually selected for hardwood. After the impregnation process is complete, the chips are heated and mixed with water, which loosens the lignin bonds and releases the fibers. The CTMP process allows to obtain clean pulp with sufficient strength and appropriate optical properties. CTMP is mainly used for the production of fibrous components of paper pulp, which can be used for the production of printing and hygiene papers.

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