MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: What makes different types of paper burn faster than others?

Date: Tue Feb 6 14:55:47 2001
Posted By: Gregory Fike, Grad student, Paper Science & Chemical Engineering
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 980379513.Ch

Thanks for your question, Rodney.  There are several reasons why different 
types of paper could burn faster than others.  One reason is the amount of 
moisture in the paper.  A sheet of paper with more moisture will take more 
time to burn because the water must evaporate before the paper will burn.  

The next reason has to do with the pulping process (pulping is the process 
where wood chips are turned into pulp that is used to make paper).  One of 
the main goals of pulping is to remove lignin from the pulp (lignin causes 
newspaper to turn yellow and reduces the strength of the paper).  The 
amount of lignin remaining in the paper affects how fast it will burn.  

There are many substances added to paper to help with certain properties.  
For example, clay and calcium carbonate are added to change the brightness 
and opacity of the paper.  These additives will also change the combustion 
properties of the paper.  Finally, some paper is treated with chemicals to 
retard the burning.  These types of paper are used in many building 
applications such as drywall and insulation backing.  

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