Fiber charge characteristics of pulp suspensions containing aluminum sulfate were investigated with relation to adsorption behavior of aluminum components on the pulp fibers by streaming potential measurement using a particle charge detector, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and X-ray fluorescence analysis. When aluminum sulfate was added to a pulp suspension prepared using deionized water, a streaming potential of the suspension went from negative to slightly negative according to the adsorption of aluminum components on the pulp fibers. Subsequent addition of a dilute NaOH solution to the suspension drastically cationized the fibers in the pH range of around 5 by predominant and homogeneous adsorption of cationic aluminum complexes on the fiber surfaces. However, the aluminum flocs that formed heterogeneously on the fiber surfaces at higher pH by further alkali addition made nearly no contribution to cationization of the fibers, although the abundant aluminum components were retained in the pulp sheets. Therefore, only aluminum cations adsorbed uniformly on the fiber surfaces perform well to control the charge properties of the pulp fibers at the wet end; and the preferential aluminum adsorption behavior on the fiber surfaces, by utilizing the required amounts of hydroxyl ions, probably accounts for the effective cationization of the fibers under acidic to neutral papermaking conditions.
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