High Yield Poly(ethylene-alt-maleic acid) Grafting to Wood Pulp while Minimizing Fiber/Fiber Wet Adhesion
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Heating bleached kraft pulps treated with poly(ethylene-alt-maleic acid) (PEMAc) can lead to high yields of carboxylated polymer grafted to fibers. However, in many cases, the cured, dry pulp cannot be effectively repulped (redispersed in water) because the wet strength is too high. Impregnation with PEMAc solutions at pH 4 followed by high temperature (120-180 °C), catalyst-free curing for short times can give fixation yields >85% while maintaining repulpability. The combination of high fixation yields with low wet strength is possible because the extent of curing required for high grafting yields is less than the curing requirement for high wet strength. Two challenges in moving this technology to practicable applications are (1) identifying the optimum laboratory pulp curing conditions and (2) translating laboratory curing conditions to industrial processes. A modeling tool was developed to meet these challenges. The model is based on the observation that for curing conditions giving high fixation yields the wet tensile indices of grafted pulp sheets showed a power-law dependence on the βΓ product where β is the conversion of the succinic acid moieties in PEMAc to the corresponding succinic anhydride groups in the curing step and Γ is the amount of polymer applied to the pulp. For two PEMAc molecular weights and two pulp types, the power-law slopes were 0.6; however, the pre-exponential terms depended upon the specific polymer and pulp type combination. We propose that the relationships between the wet tensile index and βΓ, from polymer-treated, laboratory pulp handsheets, can be used to predict if proposed curing conditions for larger-scale processes will produce a repulpable product.
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