Restricted dissolution and derivatization capacities of cellulose fibres under uniaxial elongational stress

Abstract : Cellulose is a future major source of materials and biofuel but its extraction and its chemical or enzymatic treatments are difficult, polluting and inefficient tasks. The accessibility of the reagents to cellulose chains is indeed limited. Classical evocated reasons for this lack of accessibility are pore structure, tight hydrogen bond arrays, crystallinity and presence of resistant materials like lignin. Studying dissolution of cotton hairs and regenerated cellulose fibres in various solvents under uniaxial tension, we found that tension is preventing these fibres to dissolve in chemicals that would dissolve the same cellulose fibres tension-free. We show that what is controlling dissolution is not the degree of swelling since, at the same degree of swelling, fibres under tension do not dissolve while fibres without tension do. An important result is that when a fibre under tension (thus swollen but not dissolved) is breaking, it is immediately dissolving. Under tension, when the solvent is present around cellulose chains, it is activated to solvate the chains only when tension stress is released. A chemical reaction like acetylation of cellulose fibre under tension also gives an interesting result. The degree of substitution remains very low while the same experiment performed without tension leads to higher degree of substitution followed by the dissolution of the fibre (even increasing further the DS due to homogeneous reaction). We postulate that the lack of dissolution capacity or reacting activity under tension can be due to the hampering of local conformational movements, cellulose chains being not able to perform axial movements. The availability of performing local conformational movements could be a main component of cellulose activation.
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Nicolas Le Moigne, Monica Spinu, Thomas Heinze, Patrick Navard. Restricted dissolution and derivatization capacities of cellulose fibres under uniaxial elongational stress. Polymer, Elsevier, 2010, 51 (2), pp.Pages 447-453. ⟨10.1016/j.polymer.2009.11.053⟩. ⟨hal-00509587⟩

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