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Papermaking potential of congress grass: pulpability and fiber characteristics.

Application: This study provides initial indications that congress grass, a weed that has spread through much of India, may be a useful fiber source for papermaking.

The search for new and prospective sources of fibrous raw materials for papermaking is never ending. We decided to evaluate Parthenium hysterophorous L., a weed, commonly known in India as congress grass, for its paper making potential. The study included pulping runs by soda and soda anthraquinone processes to judge the suitability of the new raw material. We also examined the resulting pulp fibers by microscope for their basic characteristics. The new raw material was found to be convertible to an acceptable quality pulp with 40% to 45% yield, 24 to 34 kappa number, and 21 to 25 ISO brightness for the unbleached pulp. The pulp contained a variety of cell types besides fibers that were found to be short, thin, and slender with a moderate intrinsic fiber strength.

Initially the raw material was tested for its proximate chemical analysis and compared with those of common papermaking raw materials. Pulping experiments were carried out in reaction bombs immersed in a heated laboratory digester filled with water. We then tested washed and screened pulps for yield and residual lignin content. They were further tested to see the extent of carbohydrate degradation during pulping. Both optical and electron microscopes were used to study the fundamental characteristics of the pulp fibers. Fiber length and fiber coarseness were compared with those of commonly known raw materials. Finally laboratory handsheets were prepared and tested for their physical and strength properties.

Presently, congress grass is known only lot its negative attributes as a hardy weed that thrives in almost all climatic conditions and usurps every piece of marginal land. However, we have found that the raw material has general similarities with hardwoods and other nonwoods, both in terms of proximate analysis and fiber characteristics. It may be worthwhile to explore the possibility of congress grass being used in conjunction with other raw materials as a partial replacement.

Ghatak is assistant professor, Chemical Technology Department, S.L.I.E.T., Longowal--148106, Punjab, India; email
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Title Annotation:Nonwood fiber: summary of peer-reviewed material
Author:Ghatak, Himadri Roy
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Feb 1, 2002
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