Materials Chemistry

Highly regioselective surface acetylation of cellulose and shaped cellulose constructs in the gas-phase



Gas-phase acylation of cellulose is an attractive method for modifying the surface properties of cellulosics. However, little is known concerning the regioselectivity of the chemistry, in terms of which cellulose positions are preferentially acylated and if acylation can be restricted to the surface, preserving crystallinities/morphologies. Consequently, we reexplore simple gas-phase acetylation of modern-day cellulosic building blocks – cellulose nanocrystals, pulps, regenerated fibre and aerogels. The gas-phase acetylation is shown to be highly regioselective for the C6-OH, is further supported with computational modelling. This contrasts with liquid-state acetylation, highlighting that the gas-phase chemistry is much more controllable, yet with similar kinetics to the uncatalyzed liquid-phase reactions. Furthermore, this method preserves both the native crystalline structure of cellulose and the supramolecular morphologies of even delicate cellulosic constructs (aerogel exhibiting retention of chiral cholesteric liquid crystalline phases). Therefore, we are convinced that this methodology will lead to more rapid adoption of precisely tailored and cellulosic materials


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