CARMEN GORMAN– GRZEXP.com Staff
Before paper was invented, clay tablets; papyrus, made from the Cyperus papyrus plant; parchment, the skin of calves, goats, or sheep; and vellum, a finer version of parchment from younger animals, were used for writing. Eventually, inventors in China started creating cloth sheets to write on. Paper similar to what we know today was officially invented by Ts’ai Lun, a Chinese court official in 105 A.D. To make these sheets, Lun mixed hemp, mulberry bark, and some shredded rags with water, mashed the mixture into a pulp, press out the liquid, and then hung the sheets he had made out in the sun to dry. The word “paper” came from the word “papyrus”, as defined earlier. This term was taken in by the Chinese and spread across to other parts of the earth. The Chinese also used paper for wrapping, padding, and later in the 6th century for toilet paper. Then sometime in the 7th century, the world’s first paper money was made.
Paper today is produced much like how Lun made it a few thousand years ago. Except now most of our paper is made by large machines. The pulp is either made by groundwood process (mechanically) or Kraft process (chemically). The groundwood process involves machines that clean, cut, and do various other processes on the logs, cloth, and additional materials into a heap of watery fibers. In the Kraft method, according to explainthatstuff.com, “plant materials are boiled up in strong alkalis such as sodium sulfide or sodium hydroxide to produce fibers.” Afterward, the pulp is moved to a gigantic rolling machine which turns it into sheets of paper. When placed inside, the pulp will be on a conveyor belt with mesh wire, which vibrates, sucks, and fans the fibers to remove any liquid. Then the paper is compressed by a patterned roller, the paper is then fully dried, and loops through a lot of rollers. Finally, the paper is pressed by a very heavy steel rolled. It comes out of the machine as a large sheet of paper to be used however necessary.
In summary, paper was invented thousands of years ago by mixing wood, water, and cloth, flattening it out, and letting it dry. Next time you use any form of paper, take a second to think about its history or how it was made.
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