What Elements Make up Paper?

The elements that make up paper are cellulose from tree wood and various chemicals that give different types of paper their special properties. Hemp, bamboo, flax and cotton are also used, but 95 percent of the raw elements come from trees, according to the National Center for Families Learning.

The trees are ground into chips and then boiled to remove lignin, a substance that holds together the cellulose monomers responsible for the structural support of the trees. The cellulose is then made into liquid paper pulp, dried and shipped to be made into paper.

The different chemicals that are then added give the final paper its unique qualities. Sodium aluminate is used in combination with alum to control pH. Silicate of magnesia is used to give paper a greasy or soapy feel and enables paper to take a high finish. Barium sulfate, cadmium sulfide, calcium sulfite and lead chromate are all used as pigments.

Guar gum is used as a dry strength additive, sodium peroxide is used for bleaching and titanium dioxide is used to increase opacity and brightness. There are many other chemicals used in the process, but these few are examples of the wide variety available for the paper-making process.