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The influence of hemicellulose on fibril aggregation of kraft pulp fibres as revealed by FE-SEM and CP/MAS 13C-NMR


Three Norway spruce pulps were produced using different kraft pulping methods, in order to obtain large differences in cellulose and hemicellulose proportions at a similar lignin content. The hemicellulose content in the three pulps varied between 10% and 22%. The aim of the study was to evaluate the influence of cellulose and hemicellulose on fibre ultrastructure and correlate this with the differences observed in the mechanical properties between the pulps. The ultrastructure of the pulp fibres were studied using Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscopy (FE-SEM) and Solid-State Cross Polarisation Magic Angle Spinning Carbon-13 Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (CP/MAS 13C-NMR) in combination with spectral fitting. CP/MAS 13C-NMR measured the average bulk properties of the pulp fibres, while FE-SEM allowed for observations on the ultrastructure of fibre surfaces. The ultrastructure of the fibres varied with varying hemicellulose content. The pulp with a high hemicellulose content had a porous surface structure. In fibres with a low hemicellulose content, the fibril aggregates (macrofibrils) formed a much more compact surface structure. With CP/MAS 13C-NMR this change was reflected by an increase in average fibril aggregate width with decreasing hemicellulose content. Results from FE-SEM and CP/MAS 13C-NMR correlated well. The changes recorded in ultrastructure may explain the very different mechanical properties reported previously for pulps with different hemicellulose content.