Surface hydrophobization of pulp fibers in paper sheets via gas phase reactions

Philipp Wulz, Carina Waldner, Sarah Krainer, Eero Kontturi, Ulrich Hirn, Stefan Spirk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hydrophobization of cellulosic materials and particularly paper products is a commonly used procedure to render papers more resistant to water and moisture. Here, we explore the hydrophobization of unsized paper sheets via the gas phase. We employed three different compounds, namely palmitoyl chloride (PCl), trifluoroacetic anhydride/acetic anhydride (TFAA/Ac2O)) and hexamethyldisilazane (HMDS) which were vaporized and allowed to react with the paper sheets via the gas phase. All routes yielded hydrophobic papers with static water contact angles far above 90° and indicated the formation of covalent bonds. The PCl and TFAA approach negatively impacted the mechanical and optical properties of the paper leading to a decrease in tensile strength and yellowing of the sheets. The HMDS modified papers did not exhibit any differences regarding relevant paper technological parameters (mechanical properties, optical properties, porosity) compared to the non-modified sheets. XPS studies revealed that the HMDS modified samples have a rather low silicon content, pointing at the formation of submonolayers of trimethylsilyl groups on the fiber surfaces in the paper network. This was further investigated by penetration dynamic analysis using ultrasonication, which revealed that the whole fiber network has been homogeneously modified with the silyl groups and not only the very outer surface as for the PCl and the TFAA modified papers. This procedure yields a possibility to study the influence of hydrophobicity on paper sheets and their network properties without changing structural and mechanical paper parameters.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-87
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Biological Macromolecules
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Cellulose
  • Fibers
  • Gas phase
  • Hydrophobisation
  • Porosity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy(all)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry

Fields of Expertise

  • Advanced Materials Science

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