Controlled depolymerisation of cellulose to a given degree of polymerisation

Jani Trygg, Poonam Trivedi, Pedro Fardim

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


    The degree of polymerization of cellulose is very relevant for physical and chemical properties of highly engineered biomaterials. The ability to control the level of depolymerisation to a final specific value opens new opportunities to design cellulose-based nanostructured materials. In this paper, the controlled hydrolysis of cellulose in 0-96% ethanol environment and with nine chosen acids (pK(a)-10-4.7) was studied in order to tailor the pretreatment of dissolving and kraft pulps for various applications. The acid hydrolysis of cellulose in aqueous environment decreased the viscosity averaged degree of polymerisation (DPv) and relative cellulose content. However, the addition of small amounts of ethanol preserved the cellulose content nearly at the original level, while decreasing the DPv. Furthermore, when the ethanol concentration increased, the DPv decreased manifoldly. The treatment with strong mineral acids in ethanol environment decreased the DPv by 75-80%, regardless of the initial DPv of the pulps. The correlation between the pK(a) of the acid and the final DPv was notable, and organic acids yielded a much higher DPv. Also, the electron microscopy study revealed that the outer cell wall layers were intact after the treatment with weak acids, whereas mineral acids in ethanol environment weakened the outer cell wall layers. This caused the dissolution mechanism to change when fibres were immersed in 0.2 M cupriethylenediamine. Fibres with intact outer cell wall layers dissolved via the ballooning mechanism, whereas fibres with ruptured outer cell wall dissolved via either fragmenting or uniform swelling.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Pages (from-to)557–567
    JournalCellulose Chemistry and Technology
    Issue number5-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Cite this