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Electrical seperation of hydrogen bonds

  1. Dec 4, 2006 #1
    Ok. It's been a long time since chemistry class.

    Firstly, I'm investigating alternative techniques for cutting paper. Think, a normal sheet of computer printer paper. Disregard for the moment any chemical binders. Paper is close to 100% cellulose.

    So, cellulose is a polysaccharide which "bristles" with polar O-H groups
    (see http://antoine.frostburg.edu/chem/senese/101/consumer/faq/what-is-cellulose.shtml)

    which will form hydrogen bonds with other O-H groups on other poly chains, bonding them together.

    I know that removing the water is what joins the molecules initially. So adding water would most likely aid the separation, but of course it also messes up the paper.

    What I'm curious about is, if one had enough electrical force (a high enough voltage), could one , for example, bring a highly positive plate near contact with the poly structure, and cause it to cleave? In other words, break the molecular bond at that point?

    I'm not even sure how much "energy" is in one of these H-bonds, not to mention the energy involved in the C-O-H bond in between molecules. I'm assuming one would have to apply enough energy to overcome that energy.

    I ask this question more out of a curiosity rather than a "commercial" application. I just thought it might be a good experiment. Perhaps of course the amount of energy required would simply burn the paper anyway :P

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2006 #2


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    You're asking a pretty specific theoretical question within a vague context, in relevance to an experimental setting. Cellulose does undergo redox reactions, to speed up this reaction, all you need to do is to place it in slightly more acidic conditions. As far as the "applying voltage to paper" goes, you would probably need a sophisticated technical method, since you would need to pass the charge throughout the insulating paper and also make a circuit, with the paper medium being an essential part of it. You may want to ask this question in one of the engineering forums to get a more detailed theoretical explanation.
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