On nitrogen fixation and “residual nitrogen content” in cellulosic pulps

Takaaki Goto, Sara Zaccaron, Markus Bacher, Hubert Hettegger, Antje Potthast, Thomas Rosenau

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7 Citations (Scopus)
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Cellulosic material is capable of permanently retaining nitrogen compounds (mostly having amino functions), which is reflected in a residual nitrogen content (in the low per mille range to the low percent range) of some pulps and certain lab samples. Merely adsorptively bound compounds can be removed by mild acidic washing, but part of the nitrogen seems to be resistant and very tightly bound, and thus not accessible for removal by washing. Tertiary and aromatic amines are not retained in this way, but only primary and secondary amines. There is only a weak correlation between the “firmly bound nitrogen” and the carbonyl content in cellulosics (because of oxidative damage), so that possible aminal, Schiff base and enamine structures can hardly be relevant as major nitrogen sources. However, there is a very good linear correlation between the ISO brightness (chromophore content) in aged pulps and the residual nitrogen content. In particular the concentration of the cellulosic key chromophore 2,5-dihydroxy-[1,4]-benzoquinone (DHBQ) determines the permanent N-binding capacity of the pulp. DHBQ reacts very readily with primary and secondary amines under ambient conditions to 2,5-diamino-substituted [1,4]-benzoquinones, which have very low solubility (because of zwitterionic resonance contributions) and thus remain on/in the pulp. Examples of nitrogen fixation in pulps are the binding of piperidine (a common amine catalyst in derivatization reactions), amine degradation products of the cellulose solvent NMMO, dimethylamine in materials processed from the cellulose solvent DMAc/LiCl, imidazole (a degradation product of 1-alkyl-3-methylimidazolium ionic liquids), and of amino groups in proteins after enzymatic treatment. The nature of the respective DHBQ-amine addition compound has been verified by complete structure determination.
Original languageEnglish
Article number117235
JournalCarbohydrate Polymers
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Aging
  • Cellulose
  • Chromophores
  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Pulp
  • Residual nitrogen
  • Yellowing


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