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The impact of the chemical and physical properties of Pinus patula on pulp and pulp strength properties.

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Due to the opportunity for afforestation in South Africa being severely limited, extensive research is being carried out on obtaining more wood per given area, improving the quality and value of the wood and on gaining a better understanding of how wood properties influence the characteristics of the pulp it produces. The last mentioned is the main focus of this study. If the variations in pulp, due to variations in wood properties, are better understood, then the existing fibre resource could be more efficiently managed and utilised to maximise its value. The main objective of this study was to determine how variation in physical and chemical properties, from the existing P.patula resource drives variation in pulp strength properties. It is well known that differences in tree age and site index lead to major sources of variation of various wood properties. These two easily measured variables were used in this study to capture a significant amount of variation in the wood of the aforementioned genus that enters a mill. Samples were obtained from two extremes in site quality, as measured by site index, (viz. good and poor sites) and three age ranges (viz. 9-10 years, 13-14 years and 20-21 years) from the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Wood chips from each of the six sites were pulped for various lengths of time, using the Kraft pulping method and under the same pulping conditions. A wide range of anatomical and chemical properties of wood and pulp were measured to characterise these samples as extensively as possible. All pulp samples were beaten in a PFI mill, at four different levels. The freeness values of the beaten samples were measured. The physical properties measured on handsheets made from the pulp included sheet density, burst index, tear index, tensile index, tensile energy absorbed, stretch and zero-span tensile strength. Regression models were developed to quantify the impact of the measured variables on each of the strength properties. Principal component analysis was performed on the wood characteristics measured and indicated that tree age is a more critical source of variation in wood properties than site index. The predictions of whole tree wood properties from the properties measured at breast height were excellent. Pulping studies showed that pulp yield, at kappa 20-30, increased with tree age. Wood cellulose proved to be a very good predictor of pulp yield. Xylose and mannose appeared to be most resistant to degradation during pulping. The low yield pulps were easier to refine than those with high yield. This has important implications when considering high yield pulping processes. With regard to pulp strength, the younger material could not achieve the high tear strengths obtained by the older material. However, the tear strengths achieved by these younger sites were comparable with, if not higher than, that obtained by hardwood species. The implications of this is that younger P. patula trees could be used for grades of paper where very high tear strength is not essential, but tensile is (e.g. tissue paper) and that older material can be better used for the purpose of providing the high tear strength needed by certain paper grades (e.g. linerboard and sackkraft). The maximum tensile strength achieved by the younger material was higher than that of the older material. When compared at constant freeness or sheet density, longer cooking times had a deleterious effect on strength properties. Strong predictions of pulp strength from basic wood properties were obtained when strength results were compared at constant freeness and sheet density. Because of the great influence of fibre morphology and chemistry on refining rates and on the resultant strength properties, the results of the study suggest that fibres of greatly different chemical and anatomical characteristics should not be refined together, if beating energy and pulp strength are to be optimised. However, further work is required to evaluate if the separation of fibre resources, to improve pulp quality, would be economically viable.


Thesis (M.Sc.Eng.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2005.


Theses--Chemical engineering., Wood-pulp., Wood--Chemistry., Pinus patula--South Africa.