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Publication Date: 2005-May-26

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Topically-applied binder materials for imparting wet strength to soft, absorbent paper sheets, such as are useful as household paper towels and the like, include an azetidinium-reactive polymer, such as a carboxyl-functional polymer, an azetidinium-functional polymer and, optionally, a component useful for reducing sheet-to-sheet adhesion (blocking) in the product. These binder materials can be cured at ambient temperature over a period of days and do not impart objectionable odor to final product when wetted.

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Background of the Invention

     In the manufacture of certain bonded non-woven products, the use of topical binders to impart added strength to the final product is well known. An example of such a process is disclosed in U.S. 3,879,257 entitled "Absorbent Unitary Laminate-Like Fibrous Webs and Method for Producing Them" and issued April 22, 1975 to Gentile et al., herein incorporated by reference. A problem associated with commercially available topical binders is that they require a highly elevated curing temperature to impart the desired strength, which in turn requires a curing oven or equivalent apparatus. These requirements add to the capital and manufacturing costs associated with the product. Also, some commercially available binders can emit hazardous air pollutants, such as formaldehyde, and the resulting product can exhibit an undesirable odor, particularly when wetted.

     An improved binder system is disclosed in U.S. Patent Application Serial No. 10/654,556 entitled "Low Odor Binders Curable at Room Temperature" filed September 2, 2003 by Goulet et al. This binder system utilizes a mixture of an epoxy-reactive polymer and an epoxy-functional polymer. However, there remains a need to continually improve upon binder systems useful for the commercial production of paper towels, for example.

Summary of the Invention

     It now has been discovered that binder systems involving the reaction between an azetidinium-reactive polymer and an azetidinium-functional cross-linking polymer, when topically applied to a fibrous web such as a paper web, particularly a tissue or paper towel basesheet, can cure at ambient or low temperature without emitting formaldehyde and without imparting objectionable odors to the resulting product. Furthermore, such binder systems exhibit additional commercial advantages, such as viscosity stability, ease of use and low cost. Specifically, these binder systems retain a low viscosity value for a prolonged period of time (weeks) compared to other low temperature cure binder systems which significantly increase in viscosity after several hours, which makes application of the binder more difficult. Regarding ease of use, the azetidinium-functional cross-linking polymer does not require an activation step using a strong base as is needed with some







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other binder systems, which makes it easier to prepare, safer to handle and reduces overall binder cost. Further in regard to cost, azetidinium-functional cross-linking polymers can be considerably less expensive than epoxy-functional resins due to the existing large commercial market for azetidinium-functional cross-linking polymers as wet end additives for paper.

     Without being bound by theory, it is hypothesized that during and after drying of the paper web, the functional moiety on the latex polymer reacts with the azetidinium- functional reactant to form a covalently bonded polymer net...