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What Is Bamboo Pulp?

By Paul Scott
Updated May 17, 2024
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Bamboo pulp is a viscous solution of bamboo fibers, water, and chemicals used to produce paper and fabrics. Bamboo is a woody, perennial plant belonging to the grass family, which features fibers similar to softwoods in terms of length and strength. The fibers also possess strong anti-bacterial qualities which greatly enhance the properties of items manufactured from bamboo pulp. The pulp is produced in much the same way as wood pulps, with several processes pulping both hard and soft wood varieties in tandem with bamboo. The process involves reducing finely-chipped bamboo to a pulp by “cooking” the chips under pressure in a water and chemical solution in a pressure vessel.

Bamboo is a fast-growing, evergreen plant belonging to the botanical family of grasses. It has long been used as a construction material and as a source of implements, weapons, and ornaments in several global regions, particularly in Asia. In these regions, bamboo pulp has also been used to make high-grade papers for many years. Recent green trends have, however, seen significant amounts of attention paid to the many uses of the plant in other world regions. The fact that many bamboo species grow up to 3.3 feet (1 meter) per day along with several noteworthy physical properties make bamboo an extremely attractive and highly sustainable source of many end products, including bamboo pulp for the manufacture of textiles and paper.

In terms of length and strength, the fibers of bamboo plants are similar to those of softwoods, such as pine and fir, traditionally used to produce the wood pulps destined for paper manufacture. In fact, bamboo is often pulped in tandem with both soft and hard wood varieties due to these similarities. The bamboo fibers also possess anti-bacterial qualities that prevent the formation and spread of bacteria and mildew in fabrics and paper produced from bamboo pulp. In addition, bamboo fibers contain high concentrations of cellulose resulting in strong, robust end products.

The manufacture of bamboo pulp involves chipping the bamboo stems to form a fine aggregate. The chips are then “cooked,” or heated under pressure, in a vessel known as a digester in a solution of water and chemicals. This process breaks the fibers down into a viscous pulp which, when completely digested, is subjected to several clarification stages to remove the chemicals and suspended impurities. The pulp is then dried by drawing residual water from the pulp by means of a vacuum pump and allowing the resultant semi-moist mass to either dry in a batch oven or naturally in the open air. At this point, the dry pulp is compacted into sheets or bales in readiness for distribution.

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