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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.


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Correspondence to Yoshiharu Nishiyama.

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

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Key words

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