Cellulose, from which our paper is fabricated, is built from glucose molecules bonded covalently together into long chains. Each alternating glucose ring of the cellulose molecule is flipped over and the water molecule (H2O) has been split out leaving an oxygen molecule between each ring. This chain or ribbon (the cellulose molecule) will continue for 3,000 to 5,000 glucose units (see illustration 5).
These long ribbon-like chains (molecules) are built up into “sheets” which are held together by the side-to-side hydrogen bonding between the chains (see illustration 6).
The sheets of cellulose (shown in illustration 6) are held in staggered layers, one on top of another by Van der Waals force. The geometry of the short, carbon-hydrogen bonds minimizes the distance between layers and, therefore, Van der Waals forces (which are proportional to the inverse of the sixth power of the intermolecular distances) are maximized (see illustration 7).
These small units of cellulose formed through side-by-side hydrogen bonding and layered by Van der Waals forces are called microfibrils. These microfibrils will crystallize (organize into units) into bundles by the same side-by-side hydrogen bonding and layer-to-layer Van der Waals interaction that formed the microfibrils. These bundles are then crystallized into fibers by the same side-to-side hydrogen bonding and layer-to-layer Van der Waals forces. The microfibrils have nearly perfect bonding, both side-by-side and layer-to-layer, but each successive stage of formation has a progressively less perfect degree of bonding because any imperfection in the first stages of crystallization will be progressively magnified during progression to the final fiber formation. These fibers are mixed with water and often other chemicals, beaten into a slurry and spread onto a forming screen. They are then pressed together and dried to produce a finished sheet of paper.