Neutral Sulfite Treatment of Lignocellulosic Pulps

Elina Warsta, Tapani Vuorinen


Birch and eucalyptus kraft pulps were treated with sulfite solutions in neutral conditions (pH 7) at 170 °C for 60 min and at 190 °C for 180 min. The pulps were analyzed for kappa number, viscosity, carbohydrate composition, and optical properties. Additionally, UV resonance Raman (UVRR) spectroscopy was applied to collect information on the contents of hexenuronic acid (HexA), lignin, and its phenolic hydroxyl groups. The sulfite treatments resulted in (i) depolymerization and partial dissolution of cellulose, (ii) partial dissolution of xylan and substantial decrease in its HexA content, and (iii) removal of the major part of lignin and increase in its phenolic hydroxyl group content. The extensive removal of HexA and depolymerization of cellulose by neutral sulfite were unexpected phenomena that have not been previously reported. According to their degree of polymerization (DP), the pulps were mainly in the form of microcrystalline cellulose after the more drastic treatments.


Cellulose; Hexenuronic acid; Kraft pulp; Lignin; Microcrystalline cellulose; Phenolic hydroxyl group; Sulfite; UV resonance Raman spectroscopy

Full Text:


Welcome to BioResources! This online, peer-reviewed journal is devoted to the science and engineering of biomaterials and chemicals from lignocellulosic sources for new end uses and new capabilities. The editors of BioResources would be very happy to assist you during the process of submitting or reviewing articles. Please note that logging in is required in order to submit or review articles. Martin A. Hubbe, (919) 513-3022,; Lucian A. Lucia, (919) 515-7707, URLs:; ISSN: 1930-2126