The chemistry of books
Without chlor-alkali chemistry, the pleasure of browsing a book would not be the same.
Reading is one of the most extraordinary human abilities. It provides us with information, education and entertainment, keeps our brain agile and active, exercises memory, develops critical thinking, reduces stress and improves concentration. And don't be fooled by technology: several studies prove that reading on paper has numerous advantages, when compared to reading on a screen, including a greater understanding of what is read.
So, in your leisure time, let go of your computer and tablet and pick up a book. But, while you’re still here, take a few more minutes on this screen to understand how chlor-alkali chemistry plays an important role in the preparation of your favorite book.
During paper production, ethylene dichloride (1,2-dichloroethane) helps to make ethylenediamine, a chemical that prevents the pulp from getting too "bubbly", which could ruin the final paper product. This pulp is often prepared from sodium hydroxide, another chlor-alkali chemical, that is used to make bleached Kraft and writing paper.
Paper can be made clearer, whiter and brighter using another chlor-alkali chemical, sodium chlorate, used to produce chlorine dioxide, an important paper 'whitener'.
Recycled paper also benefits from the chlor-alkali chemistry, through sodium hydroxide, which can be used directly to help remove ink from old paper, or to produce sodium silicate, which can improve the quality of paper.
When it comes to printing the book, chlor-alkali chemistry also plays a role. Here, in the production of ethylcellulose, an important binder for flexographic printing and inkjet ink.
And for those times when e-readers are more handy than paper, chlor-alkali chemistry helps to purify the silicon chloride microchips that store our books.