To understand the swelling effects of alkaline treatment on the morphological properties of fibers and physical properties of handsheets, bleached softwood kraft pulp was treated with NaOH at different concentrations. The results showed that the fiber swelling increased, but the shrinkage and elongation of the paper at a NaOH concentration of 6% or higher did not improve. Dissolution of amorphous material occurred during the treatment together with peeling reactions. The fiber length and shape factor decreased and the fines content increased with an increasing alkali concentration. The cellulose crystallinity decreased with an increasing NaOH concentration. This was confirmed by X-ray diffractometry, which also showed that some cellulose I was converted to cellulose II, especially at higher NaOH concentrations (> 9%). The fiber curl and kink indices increased and the handsheet density decreased with an increasing NaOH concentration. However, the tensile index decreased more steeply than the density with an increasing NaOH concentration, possibly because of the lower number and strength of the interfiber bonds, increased kinks, and reduced fiber strength and length. The handsheet extensibility first increased and subsequently decreased as the NaOH concentration increased, which indicated that well-controlled NaOH treatment could be used to improve the extensibility of paper.
- Handsheet properties