The role of sodium silicate in newsprint deinking.
Mondi Ltd. operates a deinking plant at its Merebank mill. The plant recycles 85 000 tons per annum of flat news and magazine to produce a furnish for its newsprint papermachines. A review of the relevant pulping and flotation chemistry literature revealed that the role played by sodium silicate appears to be multi-faceted and in some dispute. Sodium silicate has an undisputed role in pH buffering, hydrogen peroxide stabilisation and the prevention of fibre yellowing. However, its role in deinking is said to be that of an ink collector or alternatively an ink dispersant. The mill's own experience has shown that the sodium silicate plays a vital role in the deinking process. Sodium silicate's ability to disperse ink, both alone and in the presence of calcium ions and fatty acid soaps, was investigated using a model ink system. A representative newsprint ink base was dispersed in the laboratory under conditions similar to those encountered in a deinking pulper. The resultant dispersions were studied using turbidity and particle size analysis. The morphology of the ink particles was determined using a scanning electron microscope. Sodium silicate proved to be a poor disperser of ink particles, but nevertheless appeared to greatly influence the dispersing properties of the soap in the presence of calcium ions. The nature of the interactions between sodium silicate, calcium ions and the collector soap were studied in an attempt to elucidate the role of sodium silicate. A model system consisting of the sodium salt of collector soap, calcium ions and sodium silicate was studied under the conditions that prevail in a typical newsprint deinking pulper. It was found that the soap and the sodium silicate compete for the calcium ions, and sodium silicate showed a measurable chelating e:ffect on calcium ions. Thus, increasing levels of sodium silicate lead to an increase in the concentration of sodium soap in solution. It was hypothesised that this effect would lead to better dispersion of ink particles and improved deinking performance. This chelating effect was evaluated in laboratory deinking studies. Samples of newsprint were pulped in a 251 Lamort laboratory pulper under a variety of conditions, viz. with fresh water, with an excess of soap, with an excess of calcium, with and without sodium silicate. The pulps were floated in a 201 flotation cell. The brightness and colour of the unfloated and floated pulps were measured. The level of the final brightness after flotation was taken as a measure of deinking efficiency. The highest final brightness was achieved when there was an excess of sodium soap and a low Ca hardness in the pulper. Softening the water used in pulping without adding excess sodium soap did not significantly improve pulp brightness. The lowest final brightness occurred in the presence of an excess of calcium in the pulper. Calcium in the pulper in the presence of sodium silicate did not result in a significantly lower final brightness. The results support the hypothesis that sodium silicate sequesters the soluble calcium in a pulping system, thereby increasing the sodium soap concentration and the resultant deinking performance. Apart from sodium silicate's chief role as a peroxide stabiliser, the sequestering action on calcium appears to be its main mechanism of action in a deinking system. An appreciation of this role will facilitate the optimisation of deinking systems with respect to calcium hardness and silicate concentration. To this end it was recommended that the Merebank deinking plant should evaluate the use of water with a low calcium ion concentration and the addition of some soap into the pulper to improve their deinking plant performance.