Skip to main content


Official Journal of the Japan Wood Research Society

Journal of Wood Science Cover Image
We’d like to understand how you use our websites in order to improve them. Register your interest.

Mechanism of mercerization revealed by X-ray diffraction


We studied the crystalline conversion of cellulose fiber from cellulose I to cellulose II (mercerization) by X-ray diffraction, focusing on the putative chain-polarity conversion from parallel to antiparallel. The structural change of Na-cellulose was examined during stepwise changes in NaOH concentration. Either Na-cellulose I or Na-cellulose II was formed depending on the initial NaOH concentration. Once formed, both structures were stable and did not inter-convert to each other when the NaOH concentration was changed. Such stability indicates that the parallel-to-antiparallel conversion is not likely to take place in the crystalline region of Na-cellulose. Regeneration of cellulose II from both forms of alkali cellulose proceeded with the formation of 0.44 nm lattice plane corresponding to the sheet of (1 ¯1 0) plane of cellulose II, showing that the molecular stacking due to van der Waals' interaction is the driving force of the formation of cellulose II. A mechanism was proposed whereby the geometry of the cellulose molecule allows close fitting of the hydrophobic faces only in the antiparallel arrangement, thus driving formation of the antiparallel structure of cellulose II.


  1. 1.

    Kolpak FJ, Blackwell J (1976) Determination of the structure of cellulose II. Macromolecules 9:273–278

  2. 2.

    Stipanovic AJ, Sarko A (1976) Packing analysis of carbohydrates and polysaccharides. 6. Molecular and crystal structure of regenerated cellulose II. Macromolecules 9:851–857

  3. 3.

    Okano T, Sarko A (1985) Mercerization of cellulose. II. Alkali-cellulose intermediates and a possible mercerization mechanism. J Appl Polym Sci 30:325–332

  4. 4.

    Hayashi J, Yamada T, Kimura K (1976) The change of the chain conformation of cellulose from type I to II. Appl Polym Sci Appl Polym Symp 28:713–727

  5. 5.

    Atalla RH (1983) The structure of cellulose: quantitative analysis by Raman spectroscopy. J Appl Polym Sci Appl Polym Symp 37:295–301

  6. 6.

    Fink HP, Philipp B (1985) Models of cellulose physical structure from the viewpoint of the cellulose I → II transition. J Appl Polym Sci 30:3779–3790

  7. 7.

    Hieta K, Kuga S, Usuda M (1984) Electron staining of reducing ends evidences a parallel-chain structure in Valonia cellulose. Biopolymers 23:1807–1810

  8. 8.

    Sugiyama J, Vuong R, Chanzy H (1991) Electron diffraction study on the two crystalline phases occurring in native cellulose from an algal cell wall. Macromolecules 24:4168–4175

  9. 9.

    Koyama M, Helbert W, Imai T, Sugiyama J, Henrissat B (1997) Parallel-up structure evidences the molecular directionality during biosynthesis of bacterial cellulose. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 94:9091–9095

  10. 10.

    Gessler K, Grauss N, Steiner T, Betzel C, Sandmann C, Saenger W (1994) Crystal structure ofβ-d-cellotetraose hemihydrate with implications for the structure of cellulose II. Science 266:1027–1029

  11. 11.

    Raymond S, Heyraud A, Tran Qui D, Kvick Å, Chanzy H (1995) Crystal and molecular structure ofβ-d-cellotetraose hemihydrate as a model of celluose II. Marcromolecules 28:2096–2100

  12. 12.

    Raymond S, Kvick Å, Chanzy H (1995) The structure of cellulose II: a revisit. Macromolcules 28:8422–8425

  13. 13.

    Langan P, Nishiyama Y, Chanzy H (1999) A revised structure and hydrogen-bonding system in cellulose II from a neutron fiber diffraction analysis. J Am Chem Soc 121:9940–9946

  14. 14.

    Kroon-Batenburg LMJ, Bouma B, Kroon J (1996) Stability of cellulose structures studied by MD simulations: could mercerized cellulose II be parallel? Macromolecules 29:5695–5699

  15. 15.

    Marhöfer RJ, Reiling S, Brickmann J (1996) Computer simulations of crystal structures and elastic properties of cellulose. Ber Bunsenges Phys Chem 100:1350–1354

  16. 16.

    Kim N-H, Sugiyama J, Okano T (1990) X-ray and electron diffraction study of Na-cellulose I: formation and its reconversion back to cellulose I. Mokuzai Gakkaishi 36:120–125

  17. 17.

    Kim N-H, Sugiyama J, Okano T (1991) X-ray and electron diffraction study of Na-cellulose. I. The effect of washing temperature on the structure of Na-cellulose I. Mokuzai Gakkaishi 37:637–443

  18. 18.

    Sonneveld EJ, Visser JW (1975) Automatic collection of powder data from photographs. J Appl Cryst 8:1–7

  19. 19.

    Sobue H, Kiessig H, Hess K (1939) Das System Cellulose — Natrium hydroxyd — Wasser in Abhängigkeit von der Temperatur. Z Physikal Chem 43:309–329

  20. 20.

    Yokota H, Sei T, Horii F, Kitamaru R (1990) 13C CP/MAS NMR study on alkali cellulose. J Appl Polym Sci 41:783–791

  21. 21.

    Nishimura H, Okano T, Sarko A (1991) Mercerization of cellulose. 5. Crystal and molecular structure of Na-cellulose I. Macromolecules 24:759–770

  22. 22.

    Nishimura H, Sarko A (1991) Mercerization of cellulose. 6. Crystal and molecular structure of Na-cellulose IV. Macromolecules 24:771–778

  23. 23.

    Buleon A, Chanzy H (1978) Single crystals of cellulose II. J Polym Sci Polym Phys Educ 16:833–839

  24. 24.

    Helbert W, Sugiyama J (1998) High-resolution electron microscopy on cellulose II andα-chitin single crystals. Cellulose 5:113–122

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yoshiharu Nishiyama.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Nishiyama, Y., Kuga, S. & Okano, T. Mechanism of mercerization revealed by X-ray diffraction. J Wood Sci 46, 452–457 (2000).

Download citation

Key words

  • Cellulose
  • Mercerization
  • Crystal structure
  • Alkali-cellulose
  • X-ray diffraction