Effect of Wood Particle Size on Fungal Growth in a Model Biomechanical Pulping Process


  • Irving B. Sachs
  • Robert A. Blanchette
  • Kory R. Cease
  • Gary F. Leatham


Microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, white-rot fungi, Phanerochaete chrysosporium, biotechnology, biopulping, biomechanical pulping, mechanical pulp, wood particle size


The pretreatment of aspen wood chips with white-rot fungus has been evaluated as a way of making biomechanical pulp. Our study addressed (1) whether wood particle size (chip size) affects the growth pattern of the attacking organism, and (2) whether the difference in particle size between chips and coarse pulp is related to the availability of wood polymers to the fungus. We qualitatively evaluated the growth of Phanerochaete chrysosporium BKM-F-1767 on aspen wood using standard industrial 6- and 19-mm chips and coarse refiner mechanical pulp. Scanning electron microscopy revealed a slight increase in the number of hyphae in the 19-mm chips compared to that in the 6-mm chips, but no major morphological differences in cellulose or lignin loss. Dense aerial hyphal growth occurred around the chips, but not around the coarse pulp. The fungus appeared to attack the coarse pulp from both outside and within the fiber wall. Hyphae within both the middle lamella and the cell lumina attacked the cell walls. The fungus eroded the chip cell walls and their constituents primarily from the wood cell lumen outward. After only 3 weeks of fungal treatment, both chips and coarse pulp showed marked localized cell-wall thinning and fragmentation as well as generalized swelling and relaxing of the normally rigid cell-wall structure. We conclude that particle size has only a minor effect on fungal growth on wood under conditions such as those likely to be used in a commercial biopulping process.


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