2024 article

Elucidation of temperature-induced water structuring on cellulose surfaces for environmental and energy sustainability

Barrios, N., Parra, J. G., Venditti, R. A., & Pal, L. (2024, April 1). CARBOHYDRATE POLYMERS, Vol. 329.

By: N. Barrios n, J. Parra n, R. Venditti n & L. Pal n

author keywords: Water structuring; Molecular dynamics; Hydrogen-bonding; Drying; Energy sustainability; Cellulose I beta
Source: Web Of Science
Added: March 4, 2024

Optimizing drying energy in the forest products industry is critical for integrating lignocellulosic feedstocks across all manufacturing sectors. Despite substantial efforts to reduce thermal energy consumption during drying, further enhancements are possible. Cellulose, the main component of forest products, is Earth's most abundant biopolymer and a promising renewable feedstock. This study employs all-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to explore the structural dynamics of a small Iβ-cellulose microcrystallite and surrounding water layers during drying. Molecular and atomistic profiles revealed localized water near the cellulose surface, with water structuring extending beyond 8 Å into the water bulk, influencing solvent-accessible surface area and solvation energy. With increasing temperature, there was a ~20 % reduction in the cellulose surface available for interaction with water molecules, and a ~22 % reduction in solvation energy. The number of hydrogen bonds increased with thicker water layers, facilitated by a “bridging” effect. Electrostatic interactions dominated the intermolecular interactions at all temperatures, creating an energetic barrier that hinders water removal, slowing the drying processes. Understanding temperature-dependent cellulose-water interactions at the molecular level will help in designing novel strategies to address drying energy consumption, advancing the adoption of lignocellulosics as viable manufacturing feedstocks.