Breakdown of Hierarchical Architecture in Cellulose During Dilute Acid Pretreatments

Michael Himmel, Yan Zhang, Hideyo Inouye, Lin Yang, Lee Makowski, Melvin Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus Citations


Cellulose is an attractive candidate as a feedstock for sustainable bioenergy because of its global abundance. Pretreatment of biomass has significant influence on the chemical availability of cellulose locked in recalcitrant microfibrils. Optimizing pretreatment depends on an understanding of its impact on the microscale and nanoscale molecular architecture. X-ray scattering experiments have been performed on native and pre-treated maize stover and models of cellulose architecture have been derived from these data. Ultra small-angle, very small-angle and small-angle X-ray scattering (USAXS, VSAXS and SAXS) probe three different levels of architectural scale. USAXS and SAXS have been used to study cellulose at two distinct length scales, modeling the fibrils as ~30 Å diameter rods packed into ~0.14 μm diameter bundles. VSAXS is sensitive to structural features at length scales between these two extremes. Detailed analysis of diffraction patterns from untreated and pretreated maize using cylindrical Guinier plots and the derivatives of these plots reveals the presence of substructures within the ~0.14 μm diameter bundles that correspond to grouping of cellulose approximately 30 nm in diameter. These sub-structures are resilient to dilute acid pretreatments but are sensitive to pretreatment when iron sulfate is added. These results provide evidence of the hierarchical arrangement of cellulose at three length scales and the evolution of these arrangements during pre-treatments.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1495-1504
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, The Author(s).

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-64627


  • Cellulose
  • Guinier analysis
  • Hierarchical architecture
  • Multi-Angle X-ray scattering


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