The feasibility of incorporating cellulose micro/nanofibers in papermaking processes: the relevance of enzymatic hydrolysis

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Cellulose nanofiber (CNF) is becoming a topic of great interest among the industrial and academic communities, mainly due to their potential applications in very well-differentiated industrial sectors. Among this wide range of applications, papermaking is one of the most accepted and studied. However, it is widely known that the papermaking sector is forced to compete in markets where products do not have huge added value and production margins are very low. Therefore, papermakers are constantly looking for new technologies that balance efficiency and production costs. In line with this, the present work attempts to assay the enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose fibers to obtain CNFs. Accordingly, pH, pulp consistency, treatment time, enzyme dosage and temperature were varied to find a combination of parameters that could lead to highly efficient CNF in terms of the mechanical properties of paper enhancement and production costs. For this, CNFs were applied to unrefined and refined bleached kraft pulps and their properties were assessed. The obtained results demonstrated that it is possible to obtain highly efficient CNFs from bleached pulp at affordable costs for papermakers. Moreover, it was found that the treatment time has a key role during the production of this CNF but at low enzyme dosages since the obtained results, in terms of intrinsic properties and reinforcing potential, for high enzyme charges did not vary significantly as time was increased. In sum, the present work offers a cost-efficient solution for the application of CNF in the production of paper from bleached pulp as well as a promising alternative to those conventional processes from a technical point of view ​
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