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Paper is a thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon, drawing or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets.
Paper is a versatile material with many uses. Whilst the most common is for writing and printing upon, it is also widely used as a packaging material, in many cleaning products, in a number of industrial and construction processes, and even as a food ingredient – particularly in Asian cultures.
Paper, and the pulp papermaking process, was said to be developed in China during the early 2nd century AD by the Han court eunuch Cai Lun, although the earliest archaeological fragments of paper derive from the 2nd century BC in China.
The oldest known archaeological fragments of the immediate precursor to modern paper date to 2nd century BC in China. The pulp papermaking process is ascribed to Cai Lun, a 2nd century AD Han court eunuch. With paper an effective substitute for silk in many applications, China could export silk in greater quantity, contributing to a Golden Age.
Paper spread from China through the Middle East to medieval Europe in the 13th century, where the first water-powered paper mills were built. In the 19th century, industrial manufacture greatly lowered its cost, enabling mass exchange of information and contributing to significant cultural shifts. In 1844, Canadian inventor Charles Fenerty and German F.G. Keller independently developed processes for pulping wood fibers.
The word "paper" is etymologically derived from Latin papyrus, which comes from the Greek πάπυρος (papuros), the word for the Cyperus papyrus plant. Papyrus is a thick, paper-like material produced from the pith of the Cyperus papyrus plant which was used in ancient Egypt and other Mediterranean cultures for writing before the introduction of paper into the Middle East and Europe. Although paper is etymologically derived from papyrus, the two are produced very differently and the development of modern paper is separate from the development of papyrus. Papyrus is a "lamination of natural plants, while paper is manufactured from fibres whose properties have been changed by maceration or disintegration.
To make pulp from wood, a chemical pulping process separates lignin from cellulose fibers. This is accomplished by dissolving lignin in a cooking liquor, so that it may be washed from the cellulose fibers. This preserves the length of the cellulose fibers. Paper made from chemical pulps are also known as wood-free papers–not to be confused with tree-free paper. This is because they do not contain lignin, which deteriorates over time. The pulp can also be bleached to produce white paper, but this consumes 5% of the fibers. Chemical pulping processes are not used to make paper made from cotton, which is already 90% cellulose.
There are three main chemical pulping processes. The sulfite process dates back to the 1840s, and it was the dominant process before the second world war. The kraft process, invented in the 1870s and first used in the 1890s, is now the most commonly practiced strategy. One advantage is a chemical reaction with lignin produces heat, which can be used to run a generator. Most pulping operations using the kraft process are net contributors to the electricity grid or use the electricity to run an adjacent paper-mill. Another advantage is the process recovers and reuses all inorganic chemical reagents. Soda pulping is a specialty process used to pulp straws, bagasse, and hardwoods with high silicate content.
There are two major mechanical pulps, thermo mechanical pulp (TMP) and groundwood pulp (GW). In the TMP process, wood is chipped and then fed into large steam-heated refiners where the chips are squeezed and made into fibres between two steel discs. In the groundwood process, debarked logs are fed into grinders where they are pressed against rotating stones and made into fibres. Mechanical pulping does not remove the lignin, so the yield is very high, >95%, but also causes paper made from this pulp to yellow and become brittle over time. Mechanical pulps have rather short fibre lengths and produce weak paper. Although large amounts of electrical energy are required to produce mechanical pulp, it costs less than chemical pulp.
Paper recycling processes can use either chemical or mechanical pulp. By mixing with water and applying mechanical action the hydrogen bonds in the paper can be broken and fibres separated again. Most recycled paper contains a proportion of virgin fibre in the interests of quality. Generally deinked pulp is of the same quality or lower than the collected paper it was made from.
There are three main classifications of recycled fibre:.
- Mill broke or internal mill waste – this incorporates any substandard or grade-change paper made within the paper mill which then goes back into the manufacturing system to be re-pulped back into paper. Such out-of-specification paper is not sold and is therefore often not classified as genuine reclaimed recycled fibre. However, most paper mills have been recycling their own waste fibre for many years, long before recycling become popular.
- Preconsumer waste – this is offcuts and processing waste, such as guillotine trims and envelope blank waste. This waste is generated outside the paper mill and could potentially go to landfill, and is a genuine recycled fibre source. Also includes de-inked preconsumer (recycled material that has been printed but did not reach its intended end use, such as waste from printers and unsold publications).
- Postconsumer waste – this is fibre from paper which has been used for its intended end use and would include office waste, magazine papers and newsprint. As the vast majority of this paper has been printed (either digitally or by more conventional means such as lithography or rotogravure), it will either be recycled as printed paper or go through a deinking process first.
Recycled papers can be made from 100% recycled materials or blended with virgin pulp. They are (generally) not as strong nor as bright as papers made from virgin pulp.
Besides the fibres, pulps may contain fillers such as chalk or china clay, which improve the characteristics of the paper for printing or writing. Additives for sizing purposes may be mixed into the pulp and/or applied to the paper web later in the manufacturing process. The purpose of sizing is to establish the correct level of surface absorbency to suit the ink or paint.
The pulp is fed to a paper machine where it is formed as a paper web and the water is removed from it by pressing and drying.
Pressing the sheet removes the water by force. Once the water is forced from the sheet, felt (not to be confused with the traditional felt) is used to collect the water. When making paper by hand, a blotter sheet is used.
Drying involves using air and or heat to remove water from the paper sheet. In the earliest days of papermaking this was done by hanging the paper sheets like laundry. In more modern times, various forms of heated drying mechanisms are used. On the paper machine, the most common is the steam-heated can dryer. These dryers can heat to temperatures above 200 °F (93 °C) and are used in long sequences of more than 40 cans. The heat produced by these can easily dry the paper to less than 6% moisture.
The paper may then undergo sizing to alter its physical properties for use in various applications.
Paper at this point is uncoated. Coated paper has a thin layer of material such as calcium carbonate or china clay applied to one or both sides in order to create a surface more suitable for high-resolution halftone screens. (Uncoated papers are rarely suitable for screens above 150 lpi.) Coated or uncoated papers may have their surfaces polished by calendering. Coated papers are divided into matte, semi-matte or silk, and gloss. Gloss papers give the highest optical density in the printed image.
The paper is then fed onto reels if it is to be used on web printing presses, or cut into sheets for other printing processes or other purposes. The fibres in the paper basically run in the machine direction. Sheets are usually cut "long-grain", i.e. with the grain parallel to the longer dimension of the sheet.
All paper produced by paper machines as the Fourdrinier Machine are wove paper, i.e. the wire mesh that transports the web leaves a pattern that has the same density along the paper grain and across the grain. Textured finishes, watermarks and wire patterns imitating hand-made laid paper can be created by the use of appropriate rollers in the later stages of the machine.
Wove paper does not exhibit "laidlines", which are small regular lines left behind on paper when it was handmade in a mould made from rows of metal wires or bamboo. Laidlines are very close together. They run perpendicular to the "chainlines", which are further apart. Handmade paper similarly exhibits "deckle edges", or rough and feathery borders.
Paper can be produced with a wide variety of properties, depending on its intended use.
- For representing value: paper money, bank note, cheque, security (see security paper), voucher and ticket
- For storing information: book, notebook, magazine, newspaper, art, zine, letter
- For personal use: diary, note to remind oneself, etc.; for temporary personal use: scratch paper
- For communication: between individuals and/or groups of people.
- For packaging: corrugated box, paper bag, envelope, wrapping tissue, Charta emporetica and wallpaper
- For cleaning: toilet paper, handkerchiefs, paper towels, facial tissue and cat litter
- For construction: papier-mâché, origami, paper planes, quilling, paper honeycomb, used as a core material in composite materials, paper engineering, construction paper and paper clothing
- For other uses: emery paper, sandpaper, blotting paper, litmus paper, universal indicator paper, paper chromatography, electrical insulation paper (see also dielectric and permittivity) and filter paper
Types, thickness and weight
The thickness of paper is often measured by caliper, which is typically given in thousandths of an inch. Paper may be between 0.07 millimetres (0.0028 in) and 0.18 millimetres (0.0071 in) thick.
Paper is often characterized by weight. In the United States, the weight assigned to a paper is the weight of a ream, 500 sheets, of varying "basic sizes", before the paper is cut into the size it is sold to end customers. For example, a ream of 20 lb, 8.5 in × 11 in (216 mm × 279 mm) paper weighs 5 pounds, because it has been cut from a larger sheet into four pieces. In the United States, printing paper is generally 20 lb, 24 lb, or 32 lb at most. Cover stock is generally 68 lb, and 110 lb or more is considered card stock.
In Europe, and other regions using the ISO 216 paper sizing system, the weight is expressed in grammes per square metre (g/m2 or usually just g) of the paper. Printing paper is generally between 60 g and 120 g. Anything heavier than 160 g is considered card. The weight of a ream therefore depends on the dimensions of the paper and its thickness.
Most commercial paper sold in North America is cut to standard paper sizes based on customary units and is defined by the length and width of a sheet of paper.
The ISO 216 system used in most other countries is based on the surface area of a sheet of paper, not on a sheet's width and length. It was first adopted in Germany in 1922 and generally spread as nations adopted the metric system. The largest standard size paper is A0 (A zero), measuring one square meter (approx. 1189x841 mm). Two sheets of A1, placed upright side by side fit exactly into one sheet of A0 laid on its side. Similarly, two sheets of A2 fit into one sheet of A1 and so forth. Common sizes used in the office and the home are A4 and A3 (A3 is the size of two A4 sheets).
Paper may be classified into seven categories:
- Printing papers of wide variety.
- Wrapping papers for the protection of goods and merchandise. This includes wax and kraft papers.
- Writing paper suitable for stationary requirements. This includes ledger, bank, and bond paper.
- Blotting papers containing little or no size.
- Drawing papers usually with rough surfaces used by artists and designers, including cartridge paper.
- Handmade papers including most decorative papers, Ingres papers, Japanese paper and tissues, all characterized by lack of grain direction.
- Specialty papers including cigarette paper, toilet tissue, and other industrial papers.
Some paper types include:
Much of the early paper made from wood pulp contained significant amounts of alum, a variety of aluminium sulfate salts that are significantly acidic. Alum was added to paper to assist in sizing the paper, making it somewhat water resistant so that inks did not "run" or spread uncontrollably. The early papermakers did not realize that the alum they added liberally to cure almost every problem encountered in making their product would eventually be detrimental. The cellulose fibres which make up paper are hydrolyzed by acid, and the presence of alum would eventually degrade the fibres until the paper disintegrated in a process which has come to be known as "slow fire". Documents written on rag paper were significantly more stable. The use of non-acidic additives to make paper is becoming more prevalent and the stability of these papers is less of an issue.
Paper made from mechanical pulp contains significant amounts of lignin, a major component in wood. In the presence of light and oxygen lignin reacts to give yellow materials, which is why newsprint and other mechanical paper yellows with age. Paper made from bleached kraft or sulfite pulps does not contain significant amounts of lignin and is therefore better suited for books, documents and other applications where whiteness of the paper is essential.
It is important to note that just because a paper is made of wood pulp, does not necessarily mean it is any less durable than a rag paper. The factor that determines the ageing behavior of a paper is how it was manufactured, not the original source of the fibres. Furthermore, tests sponsored by the Library of Congress prove that all paper is at risk of acid decay, because cellulose itself produces formic, acetic, lactic and oxalic acids.
Mechanical pulping yields almost a tonne of pulp per tonne of dry wood used (which is why mechanical pulps are sometimes referred to as "high yield" pulps), which is about twice as much as chemical pulping. Consequently, paper made with mechanical pulps is often cheaper than that made with bleached chemical pulps. Mass-market paperback books and newspapers use these mechanical papers. Book publishers tend to use acid-free paper, made from fully bleached chemical pulps for hardback and trade paperback books.
Environmental impact of paper
The production and use of paper has a number of adverse effects on the environment.
Worldwide consumption of paper has risen by 400% in the past 40 years leading to increase in deforestation, with 35% of harvested trees being used for paper manufacture. Logging of old growth forests accounts for less than 10% of wood pulp, but is one of the most controversial issues.
Paper waste accounts for up to 40% of total waste produced in the United States each year, which adds up to 71.6 million tons of paper waste per year in the United States alone.
Conventional bleaching of wood pulp using elemental chlorine produces and releases into the environment large amounts of chlorinated organic compounds, including chlorinated dioxins. Dioxins are recognized as a persistent environmental pollutant, regulated internationally by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Dioxins are highly toxic, and health effects on humans include reproductive, developmental, immune and hormonal problems. They are known to be carcinogenic. Over 90% of human exposure is through food, primarily meat, dairy, fish and shellfish, as dioxins accumulate in the food chain in the fatty tissue of animals.
Future of paper
Some manufacturers have started using a new, significantly more environmentally friendly alternative to expanded plastic packaging made out of paper, known commercially as paperfoam. The packaging has very similar mechanical properties to some expanded plastic packaging, but is biodegradable and can also be recycled with ordinary paper.
With increasing environmental concerns about synthetic coatings (such as PFOA) and the higher prices of hydrocarbon based petrochemicals, there is a focus on zein (corn protein) as a coating for paper in high grease applications such as popcorn bags.
References and notes
- Tsien 1985, p. 38
- Burns 1996, pp. 417f.
- Burger, Peter. Charles Fenerty and his Paper Invention. Toronto: Peter Burger, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9783318-1-8 pp.25-30
- πάπυρος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- papyrus, on Oxford Dictionaries
- "Papyrus definition". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 2008-11-20.
- Natural Resource Defense Council
- "Document Doubles" in Detecting the Truth: Fakes, Forgeries and Trickery, a virtual museum exhibition at Library and Archives Canada
- "Grades and uses of paper". Retrieved 2007-10-12.
- "Paper Thickness Chart", Case Paper Company Inc.
- "Thickness of a Piece of Paper", hyperTextbook.com
- McKenzie, Bruce G., The Hammermill Guide to Desktop Publishing in Business, p. 144, Hammermill Papers, 1989.
- "Density of paper and paperboard". PaperOnWeb. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- Johnson, Arthur (1978). The Thames and Hudson Manual of Bookbinding. London: Thames and Hudson.
- Biermann, Christopher J. (1993). Handbook of Pulping and Papermaking. San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-097360-X.
- Clark, James d'A. (1985). Pulp Technology and Treatment for Paper, 2nd ed. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Publications. ISBN 0-87930-164-3.
- Erhardt, D. & C. Tumosa (2005). Chemical Degradation of Cellulose in Paper over 500 years. Restaurator: International Journal for the Preservation of Library and Archival Material. 26: 155.
- Library of Congress. (2006). The Deterioration and Preservation of Paper: Some Essential Facts, Retrieved November 4, 2007, from http://www.loc.gov/preserv/deterioratebrochure.html.
- Martin, Sam (2004). "Paper Chase". Ecology Communications, Inc. Archived from the original on 2007-06-19. Retrieved 2007-09-21.
- EPA (28 June 2006). "General Overview of What's In America's Trash". United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
- "Effluents from Pulp Mills using Bleaching - PSL1". ISBN 0-662-18734-2 DSS. Health Canada. 1991. Retrieved 2007-09-21.
- "Dioxins and their effects on human health". World Health Organization. 2010 work. Retrieved 2010-06-11.
- PaperFoam Carbon Friendly Packaging
- Barrier compositions and articles produced with the compositions cross-reference to related application
- Burns, Robert I. (1996). "Paper comes to the West, 800−1400". In Lindgren, Uta. Europäische Technik im Mittelalter. 800 bis 1400. Tradition und Innovation (4th ed.). Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag. pp. 413–422. ISBN 3-7861-1748-9
- Tsien, Tsuen-Hsuin (1985). Paper and Printing. Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, Chemistry and Chemical Technology. Vol. 5 part 1. Cambridge University Press
- "Document Doubles" in Detecting the Truth: Fakes, Forgeries and Trickery, a virtual museum exhibition at Library and Archives Canada
|Look up paper in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- TAPPI Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry
- How is paper made? at The Straight Dope, 22 November 2005
- Papar Toys
- United States Government Printing Office: Government Paper Specification Standards
- How Organic Paper is Made