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Compression molded wood pulp biocomposites: a study of hemicellulose influence on cellulose supramolecular structure and material properties


In this study, the importance of hemicellulose content and structure in chemical pulps on the property relationships in compression molded wood pulp biocomposites is examined. Three different softwood pulps are compared; an acid sulfite dissolving grade pulp with high cellulose purity, an acid sulfite paper grade pulp and a paper grade kraft pulp, the latter two both containing higher amounts of hemicelluloses. Biocomposites based the acid sulfite pulps exhibit twice as high Young’s modulus as the composite based on paper grade kraft pulp, 11–12 and 6 GPa, respectively, and the explanation is most likely the difference in beating response of the pulps. Also the water retention value (WRV) is similarly low for the two molded sulfite pulps (0.5 g/g) as compared to the molded kraft pulp (0.9 g/g). The carbohydrate composition is determined by neutral sugar analysis and average molar masses by SEC. The cellulose supramolecular structure (cellulose fibril aggregation) is studied by solid state CP/MAS 13C-NMR and two forms of hemicellulose are assigned. During compression molding, cellulose fibril aggregation occurs to higher extent in the acid sulfite pulps as compared to the kraft pulp. In conclusion, the most important observation from this study is that the difference in hemicellulose content and structure seems to affect the aggregation behaviour and WRV of the investigated biocomposites.