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The anomalous effect of high intensity ultrasound on paper fibre-filler combinations

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to explore the previously unreported phenomenon in which changes occur to the particle size distributions of calcium carbonate fillers, used in papermaking, when exposed to high intensity ultrasound. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Commercial paper pulps sonicated at a frequency of 20?kHz are found to produce aggregates of their mineral filler constituents. The effects of sonication on isolated long and short fibre, and ground and precipitated calcium carbonate filler systems are also investigated both with and without the presence of dispersants. The findings are supported by particle size analysis and scanning electron microscopy of the sonicated systems. Findings ‐ It is clearly shown that exposure to high intensity ultrasound induces filler aggregation. However, the effect only occurs when paper fibres and fillers coexist and is not apparent for suspensions of filler only or fibre only slurries. Furthermore, the treatment overrides the effect of dispersants used to keep filler in suspension during the manufacturing process. An accompanying fall in pH with increasing sonication times is also noted and is linked to these changes. It is proposed that radical species produced in the slurries during sonication may explain the observed phenomenon. Research limitations/implications ‐ The role of pH is not clearly understood and needs further study. Practical implications ‐ The findings may be of interest in paper manufacture where uniform dispersal of fillers throughout the pulp is of significant importance. Originality/value ‐ The phenomenon described in this paper has not previously been reported or explored. Further studies may add to knowledge of filler dispersions and their behaviour in papermaking.
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Keywords: Fillers; Paper pulp; Paper technology; Particle size measurement

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 3, 2009

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