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Sunday, 26 May 2019

Dissolving cellulose? – mission accomplished!

Thursday, 9 October 2014 | Posted by: Michael Richter, European Coatings Journal

German researchers are working on a problem, which I have not been aware of. What would you suggest, if you had to dissolve the ubiquitous biopolymer cellulose in order to use it for coatings? And your solution should not employ environmentally harmfull solvents or destroy the polysaccharide by using aggressive reagents. Any ideas?

A few weeks ago I wrote about lignin and how this biomacromolecule could perhaps be used as a rawmaterial. My todays topic is: the ubiquitous biopolymer: cellulose.

The past

In the past there have been just environmentally doubtful methods to dissolve cellulose. The saccharide is not meltable and in normal organic solvents you can´t dissolve it. That is why reagents sodium hydroxide, carbon disulfide or ionic lquids are still employed in order to obtain a cellulose solution, like for the production of viscose. In addition to the harmful chemical profile of the mentioned reagents, it is very expensive to provide and to dispose these necessary chemicals.

The present

Researchers from the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany now came up with an elegant solution. They simply used acetone which is a very cheap solvent and not as harmful as carbon disulfide, for example. The chemists additionally employed special ammonium salts to adjust the polarity of acetone. And there we are. A simple, cheap and environmentally by far friendlier solution as former methods.

The future

With the help of this new approach for dissolving cellulose in an eco-friendly and therefore cheaper way, new applications become possible. Just think of using cellulose as a biocompatible adhesive. Or think of coatings for deployment in medical objects like implants. There are numerous applications the coatings and adhesive industry can come up with. From my point of view, everything what is necessary is staying curious and being creative.

Now it’s your turn!

What is your opinion? Do you have any suggestions or ideas?
I am looking forward to your comments and an interesting discussion!

Kind regards
Michael Richter

Reference:
M. Kostag, T. Liebert, T. Heinze, Macromol. Rapid. Comm. 2014, 35, 1419-1422.

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