Understanding and adding value to Eucalyptus fibre
AbstractEucalyptus wood has become one of the most important hardwood resources for pulp mills worldwide. Furthermore, bleached Eucalyptus pulp is used extensively both in paper-making globally where it is included in such diverse products as tissue, packaging, as well as printing papers and in chemical cellulose products such as viscose, acetate and microcrystalline cellulose. This paper investigates and highlights the physical and chemical attributes of the wood and pulp fibre from Eucalyptus that contribute to its popularity in the pulp and paper-making industries and to suggest how these can be enhanced or conserved in the manufacturing process to add maximum value. The fibre properties of macerated wood samples from a range of Eucalyptus species used commercially in South Africa are compared with those of North American hardwoods such as birch, maple and aspen. In comparison to the American hardwoods, the Eucalyptus species were found to have short and thin fibres (on average, fibre length from 0.6 to 0.8 mm and fibre width between 15 and 17 µm, compared with 0.6–1.4 mm and 17–30 µm, respectively, for the American hardwoods. This particular combination of dimensions for the Eucalyptus fibre produces a low fibre coarseness, which is a highly desirable attribute for products such as coated and uncoated papers. The Eucalyptus fibre is therefore reasonably fragile and this makes it particularly vulnerable to damage during the pulp and bleaching processes. Fibre damage occurs throughout the pulp process but is most severe in the mechanical sections such as digester blowing, high shear mixers, medium- and high-consistency pumps as well as low-consistency refining. These areas are highlighted in this paper and possibilities for fibre conservation are discussed.
Keywords: eucalypts; Eucalyptus pulp; E. nitens; fibre morphology; hardwoods
Southern Forests 2008, 70(2): 169–174