Nanoscientists discover new mechanism to cleave cellulose effectively and in an environmentally friendly way — ScienceDaily

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One of the biggest challenges in the world is the efficient use of renewable energy to meet the growing demand for energy and raw materials chemicals in the future. In this case, biomass is a promising alternative to existing fossil resources such as coal or oil. Cellulose plays a decisive role here because it accounts for the largest part of natural carbon storage. These reservoirs are critical to the production of fuels and basic chemicals. In order to fully realize its potential, it is necessary to break the chain structure of cellulose. This can be done by a so-called hydrolysis reaction, however, due to the atomic structure of the cellulose, this reaction is difficult and very expensive to date.

Researchers at the University of Münster (Germany), Dr. Saeed Amirjalayer and Professor Harald Fuchs, and researchers at the University of Bochum, led by Professor Dominik Marx, have now successfully identified a new mechanism for the efficient conversion of cellulose. Use mechanical force. This so-called mechanically catalyzed reaction can lead to the development of efficient, environmentally friendly and cost effective methods for biomass conversion. The study was published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition .

Background information and methods:

Using a hydrolysis reaction, the cellulose backbone can be broken down into individual molecular building blocks. These molecular building blocks are the practical basis for the production of fuels or chemical raw materials. In the search for ways to make the hydrolysis reaction more efficient, researchers have found evidence in earlier studies that mechanical forces can affect the transformation process.

So far, it has not been possible to clarify the effects of mechanical forces in each individual reaction step at the atomic level. However, this insight is needed to develop a correspondingly efficient and resource efficient process. In the current published work, scientists have shown that the use of mechanical forces on cellulose molecules to a certain extent has a significant effect on the response.

To this end, nano scientists have conducted so-called atomic modeling. This allows them to follow the various steps of the hydrolysis reaction in detail while applying mechanical forces to the molecular structure. The researchers calculated the so-called energy distribution, which describes the energy path along the reaction coordinates with and without mechanical influence. They have successfully demonstrated that the molecular skeleton of cellulose is strongly influenced by the hydrolysis reaction. On the one hand, the energy required to activate the process is significantly reduced. On the other hand, the increased mechanical force even makes two of the usual three reaction steps redundant. “Through our atomic model, we can clearly study the effects of mechanical forces on the reaction mechanism,” said lead author Dr. Saeed Amirjalayer, who is the team leader for the Institute of Physics and Nanotechnology Center at the University of Münster. (CENTECH). “This allows us to elucidate previously unknown and efficient cellulose conversion pathways,” he added.

The new results not only confirm experimental observations, but also show the potential to control molecular processes with the help of mechanical forces. “We can demonstrate, among other things, that the so-called proton affinity in cellulose can be selectively increased by mechanical force,” explains Saeed Amirjalayer.

Therefore, scientists hope that this work will not only enable efficient and environmentally friendly processes for cellulose conversion, but also develop new mechanically responsive materials such as plastics. These materials can be easily recovered by mechanical force after use.

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Material is provided by University of Münster . Note: Content can be edited for style and length.


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