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Color-stripping of recovered cellulosic fibers

Published on September 13, 2016
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PhD Defense July 22, 2016

Elsa Walger, LGP2's Ph.D. student, defended her Ph.D. thesis: "Study of the activation of hydrogen peroxide by the copper(II)-phenanthroline complex for the color-stripping of recovered cellulosic fibers".

This University Grenoble Alpes doctoral thesis was prepared under the supervision of Gérard Mortha, Professor, and the co-supervision of Nathalie Marlin, Associate Professor (Grenoble INP-Pagora / LGP2).

Today, recovered papers are reused for the manufacture of bright paper after deinking and fiber bleaching, which generally starts with an alkaline hydrogen peroxide stage (H2O2). However, the efficiency of H2O2 is often limited due to its low reactivity on the azo groups of paper dyes contained in recovered papers. The goal of this study was to improve the removal of these azo dyes by H2O2.

The improvement of H2O2 bleaching has been studied thoroughly in the context of chemical pulp delignification. In particular, the activation or catalysis of H2O2 by copper(II)-phenanthroline complexes (Cu-Phen) was found to be very effective. This inspired a preliminary bleaching study on deinked pulp and dyed pulp, and resulted in significant improvement of dye removal, which gave birth to our project.

The purpose of this work was to determine to what extent copper(II)-phenanthroline could improve the hydrogen peroxide color-stripping of dyed cellulosic fibers, and how. To answer this question, three intermediate issues were addressed: (1) does Cu-Phen alone have an effect on the dye? (2) does Cu-Phen improve the color-stripping of a dyed pulp by H2O2? (3) how does the H2O2/Cu-Phen system enhance the dye-color-stripping efficiency?

This work was thus divided into three studies: (1) the selected dyes and the complex were characterized in the absence of any oxidant and the interactions between the two were examined, (2) the H2O2/Cu-Phen system was applied on two dyed pulps to assess their color-stripping potential and to attempt to optimize it, and (3) the oxidation mechanism was investigated via trials in aqueous solution, with and without cellulose.

Using several analytical techniques (NMR, FTIR, UV-vis and EPR spectroscopy; ESI-MS) and speciation calculations, this work proved that the Cu-Phen complex enhanced H2O2 for the color-stripping of azo dyes, with and without fibers. It also provided evidence that phenanthroline acted as a stabilizer to adjust the solubility, stability and redox potential of copper(II), but may not be indispensable. The substrate (dyes but also cellulose) was strongly degraded by the H2O2/Cu-Phen system. The results of the mechanistic study supported the hypothesis of substrate oxidation by radicals produced via decomposition of H2O2 rather than by hydrogen peroxide itself. This mechanism, strongly dependent on the pH, is probably part of a catalytic cycle.

Finally, along with further research proposed based on our conclusions, this thesis should contribute to the improvement of deinked pulp bleaching as well as wastewater treatment in the pulp and textile industries.

LGP2 Ph.D. thesis (2016)

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Date of update September 13, 2016

Université Grenoble Alpes