Dissolving-grade pulps are commonly used for the production of cellulose derivatives and regenerated cellulose. To obtain products of high quality, these so-called "special" pulps must fulfill certain requirements, such as high cellulose content, low hemicellulose content, a uniform molecular weight distribution and high cellulose reactivity. Most, if not all, of the commercial dissolving pulps accomplish these demands to a certain extent. Nevertheless, achieving high cellulose accessibility as well as solvent and reagent reactivity is not an easy task due to the compact and complex structure presented by the cellulose.
In the first part of this work, three commercial monocomponent endoglucanases were investigated with the purpose of enhancing the cellulose accessibility and reactivity of a hardwood dissolving pulp. A monocomponent endoglucanase with a cellulose-binding domain (CBD) was shown to significantly improve the cellulose reactivity. The positive effect of this enzyme on dissolving-grade pulps was also observed on paper-grade pulps.
The main focus of the forest industry is the production of paper-grade pulps. Paper-grade pulps are mostly produced by the kraft process. In contrast, dissolving-grade pulps are produced by the sulfite and prehydrolysis kraft processes due to the high purity required for these pulps. The kraft process is known for being the most efficient process in terms of energy and chemical recovery, which makes the production costs of paper-grade pulps lower than those of sulfite dissolving-grade pulps. Besides, the production of dissolving pulps present, among others, higher capital and chemical costs than paper-grade pulps.
Therefore, the viability of converting paper-grade pulps into dissolving pulps is brought into a question. However, this task is not simple because paper-grade pulps contain a lower cellulose content and a higher hemicellulose content than dissolving pulps. They also present lower cellulose reactivity and an inhomogeneous molecular weight distribution. As a consequence, the second part of this work focused on the study of the feasibility of converting kraft pulps into dissolving pulps. Several sequences of treatments of hardwoods and non-wood pulps were investigated. The best sequence for each suitable pulp was developed, and the parameters involved were optimized. After several attempts, it was demonstrated that pulps from birch, eucalypt and sisal fulfill the requirements of a commercial dissolving pulp for the viscose process after being subjected to a sequence of treatments that included two commercial enzymes, a xylanase and a monocomponent endoglucanase, and alkali extraction steps.
Stockholm: KTH , 2010. , 57 p.