One of three classes of Cellulose, alpha cellulose has the highest degree of polymerization and is the most stable. The other two classes, known as hemicelluloses, are Beta cellulose and Gamma cellulose. Alpha cellulose is the major component of wood and paper pulp. It may be separated from the other components by soaking the pulp in a 17.5% solution of Sodium hydroxide. The pure white, alpha cellulose is insoluble and can be filtered from the solution and washed prior to use in the production of paper or cellulosic polymers. A high percent of alpha cellulose in paper will provides a stable, permanent material. Linen and Cotton contain high proportions of alpha cellulose.
Paper pulp that is high in alpha cellulose can be identified using Graff "C" stain, which will stain pinkish red. Examples of common paper fibers that are high in alpha cellulose include Cotton, Flax, Ramie, and Kozo. Alpha cellulose pulps can be created from wood pulps using extended sulfite, or mercerized kraft pulping methods.
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