Dissolving Pulp: What It Is and How It’s Made

dissolving pulp

What is Dissolving Pulp

Dissolving pulp, also known as “specialty cellulose” or “dissolving cellulose,” is a type of chemically-treated wood pulp that is used in the production of a wide range of products, including textiles, films, and industrial chemicals. Unlike typical wood pulp used in paper production, dissolving pulp is specifically designed to have a high level of purity and uniformity, as well as a low level of impurities and residual lignin, the natural glue-like substance that holds wood fibers together.

The process of producing dissolving pulp typically involves treating wood chips or other plant-based fibers with a series of chemical and mechanical treatments, such as alkaline cooking, bleaching, and purification, which break down the lignin and other impurities in the wood and produce a highly refined, uniform pulp with a high cellulose content. This pure cellulose pulp can then be used as a raw material in a variety of industrial applications, including the production of rayon, cellophane, and other products.

Raw Materials to Produce Dissolving Pulp

The primary raw material for dissolving pulp is wood, specifically softwood species such as spruce, pine, and fir. Hardwood species such as eucalyptus and birch can also be used as a raw material for dissolving pulp, but softwood is typically preferred due to its higher cellulose content and lower lignin content.

The Production Process of Dissolving Pulp

The production of dissolving pulp typically involves several stages, including:

Chipping and Pulping: The first stage in the production of dissolving pulp is to convert the wood logs into small chips using a chipper. The chips are then subjected to a mechanical or chemical pulping process to break down the wood fibers and separate the cellulose from the lignin and other impurities.

Bleaching: The pulp produced in the first stage is usually brown in color due to the presence of lignin and other impurities. Therefore, the pulp is treated with a series of chemicals to remove the impurities and improve the brightness of the pulp. This process is known as bleaching, and it typically involves the use of chemicals such as chlorine dioxide, hydrogen peroxide, and sodium hydroxide.

Purification: The bleached pulp is then subjected to a purification process to further remove any remaining impurities, including lignin and hemicellulose. This is typically achieved by washing the pulp with water and chemicals in a series of stages.

Dissolving: Once the pulp has been purified, it is ready to be dissolved in a chemical solution to produce the final dissolving pulp product. The most commonly used chemical solution is a mixture of sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide, which breaks down the cellulose fibers and converts them into a viscous liquid. The dissolved pulp can then be further processed to produce a variety of industrial products, including rayon, cellophane, and other materials.

The specific details of the production process can vary depending on the type of equipment and chemicals used, as well as the specific end-use applications of the dissolving pulp. However, the general process described above provides a broad overview of the main stages involved in the production of dissolving pulp.

The Development of Dissolving Pulp

The history of dissolving pulp can be traced back to the late 19th century, when researchers began to explore the potential of wood-derived cellulose as a raw material for the production of industrial products such as rayon, a synthetic fiber. The first commercial production of rayon using wood pulp as a raw material began in France in 1891, and by the early 20th century, rayon production had become a major global industry.

Initially, wood pulp used in rayon production was made using a relatively simple mechanical process that involved grinding wood into a fine powder and then processing the resulting material into pulp. However, this pulp was not suitable for use in the production of other high-value products, such as cellophane, due to its high content of impurities and residual lignin.

In the 1920s, researchers developed a more sophisticated chemical process for producing wood pulp that was suitable for use in a wider range of products, including cellophane and other industrial materials. This process involved treating wood chips with a series of chemical and mechanical treatments, such as alkaline cooking and bleaching, which removed impurities and lignin and produced a highly refined, uniform pulp with a high cellulose content. This process laid the foundation for the production of dissolving pulp as we know it today.

Since the development of this process, the production of dissolving pulp has become an important industry in its own right, with a wide range of applications in the production of textiles, films, and industrial chemicals. Today, dissolving pulp is produced in countries around the world, with major producers including Canada, Brazil, China, and Sweden.


In conclusion, dissolving pulp is a versatile and sustainable material that has revolutionized the textile and packaging industries. With its high cellulose content and low impurities, dissolving pulp offers a wide range of benefits over traditional wood pulp, including improved strength, brightness, and consistency. Thanks to its unique properties, dissolving pulp is used in a wide range of industrial applications, including the production of rayon, cellophane, and other high-value products.

Moreover, the production of dissolving pulp offers an opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of the pulp and paper industry. By using sustainable raw materials and innovative production processes, pulp producers can create high-quality dissolving pulp products with minimal waste and emissions. As such, dissolving pulp represents a promising avenue for creating a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.

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