Knowledge of the ultrastructural arrangement within wood fibres is important for understanding the mechanical properties of the fibres themselves, as well as for understanding and controlling the
ultrastructural changes that occur during pulp processing.
The object of this work was to explore the use of atomic force microscopy (AFM) in studies of the cell wall ultrastructure and to see how this structure is affected in the kraft pulp fibre line. This is done in order to eventually improve fibre properties for use in paper and other applications, such as composites. On the ultrastructural level of native spruce fibres (tracheids), it was found that cellulose fibril aggregates exist as agglomerates of individual cellulose microfibrils (with a width
of 4 nm). Using AFM in combination with image processing, the average side length (assuming a square cross-section) for a cellulose fibril aggregate was found to be 15–16 nm although with a broad distribution. A concentric lamella structure (following the fibre curvature) within the
secondary cell wall layer of native spruce fibres was confirmed. These concentric lamellae were formed of aligned cellulose fibril aggregates with a width of about 15 nm, i.e. of the order of a single cellulose fibril aggregate. It was further found that the cellulose fibril aggregates had a
uniform size distribution across the fibre wall in the transverse direction.
During the chemical processing of wood chips into kraft pulp fibres, a 25 % increase in cellulose fibril aggregate dimension was found, but no such cellulose fibril aggregate enlargement occurred during the low temperature delignification of wood into holocellulose fibres. The high temperature in the pulping process, over 100 ºC, was the most important factor for the cellulose fibril aggregate enlargement. Neither refining nor drying of kraft or holocellulose pulp changed the cellulose fibril aggregate dimensions.
During kraft pulping, when lignin is removed, pores are formed in the fibre cell wall. These pores were uniformly distributed throughout the transverse direction of the wood cell wall. The lamellae consisting of both pores and matrix material (“pore and matrix lamella”) became wider and their numeral decreased after chemical pulping. In holocellulose pulp, no such changes were seen.
Refining of kraft pulp increased the width of the pore and matrix lamellae in the outer parts of the fibre wall, but this was not seen in holocellulose.
Upon drying of holocellulose, a small decrease in the width of the pore and matrix lamellae was seen, reflecting a probable hornification of the pulp. Refining of holocellulose pulp led to pore closure probably due to the enhanced mobility within the fibre wall. Enzymatic treatment using
hemicellulases on xylan and glucomannan revealed that, during the hydrolysis of one type of hemicellulose, some of the other type was also dissolved, indicating that the two hemicelluloses were to some extent linked to each other in the structure. The enzymatic treatment also decreased the pore volume throughout the fibre wall in the transverse direction, indicating enzymatic accessibility to the entire fibre wall.
The results presented in this thesis show that several changes in the fibre cell wall ultrastructure occur in the kraft pulp fibre line, although the effects of these ultrastructural changes on the fibre properties are not completely understood.
Stockholm: KTH , 2005. , 70 p.
Chemical engineering, atomic force microscopy, cellulose, cell wall, drying, fiber
2005-02-18, STFI-salen, Drottning Kristinas väg 61, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Gedde, Ulf W.