I'm trying to find any readily available chemical/substance (i.e. household, hardware store etc.) or combination of such that breaks down paper/cellulose.

I'm a home electronics hobbyist and am using my laser printer to print circuit board layouts. I place the paper on the blank copper board and run it through a laminate machine (high temp & pressure) to 'melt' the laser toner to the copper. I then soak the board and paper in water to try and slush the paper free of the toner, after which I can put the board in acid and remove the exposed copper and leave my circuit pattern.

This actually works pretty well except that releasing the paper from the toner is maybe only 95% efficient/reliable. Sometimes the toner gets pulled off the copper and/or fibers/slag from the paper remain on the board.

From doing a little research on the internet, it would seem that dissolving/breaking down cellulose is not an easy process and is quite involved for commercial applications. However, for my purposes I don't think I need some 'perfect' solution. If I can just get the paper to soften, or partially break down or just change its properties a bit so that it will let go of the toner more efficiently, then that would probably be sufficient for my needs.

Any ideas?

  • $\begingroup$ Schweizer's reagent is known to dissolve cellulose. Not sure whether it will be good for the toner and board, though. $\endgroup$ – Ivan Neretin Sep 6 '15 at 11:31
  • $\begingroup$ @IvanNeretin It will dissolve copper on prolonged contact. $\endgroup$ – permeakra Sep 6 '15 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ Timber is hydrolyzed industrially in 0.5% sulfuric acid at 180-200 Celsium under pressure. My guess, boiling with diluted (say, 10%) sulfuric, or better hydrochloric* acid for 10-12 hours should work. BUT! Be aware that prolonged contact with aerated acidic solution may dissolve some copper as well. || * common paper often contains a bit of calcium carbonate, which will not readily dissolve in sulfuric acid, but will do so in hydrochloric acid. $\endgroup$ – permeakra Sep 6 '15 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ Many thanks Ivan & Permeakra! Schweizer's reagent sounds like a possibility. The sulfuric and/or hydrochloric acid for 10-20 hours would be impractical for my purposes. I seem to be frustratingly close to being able to make fairly intricate, clean, neat and professional looking circuit boards simply and cheaply to satisfy my inner electronics inventor! Just getting the toner to release from the paper is proving to be the spoiler. $\endgroup$ – Gordon Sep 6 '15 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ Oops! sent above reply prematurely. Where might I be able to acquire Schweizer's regent? I'm not a chemist but the Wikipedia description leads me to believe that this may not be all that stable and has little shelf life and that it needs to be created and used all in one go? Also, how toxic and/or what special handling precautions must be considered? $\endgroup$ – Gordon Sep 6 '15 at 16:43

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