Measurement of Moisture-Dependent Ion Diffusion Constants in Wood Cell Wall Layers Using Time-Lapse Micro X-Ray Fluorescence Microscopy

Joseph Jakes, Samuel Zelinka, Christopher Hunt, Peter Ciesielski, Charles Frihart, Daniel Yelle, Leandro Passarini, Sophie-Charlotte Gleber, David Vine, Stefan Vogt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus Citations


Our future bioeconomy depends on increased utilization of renewable lignocellulosic biomass. Controlling the diffusion of chemicals, such as inorganic ions, within secondary plant cell walls is central to many biomass applications. However, insufficient understanding of intra-cell-wall diffusion within secondary plant cell walls is hindering the advancement of many lignocellulosic biomass applications. In this work, X-ray fluorescence microscopy was used to measure diffusion constants of K+, Cu2+, and Cl diffusing through loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) cell wall layers under 70%, 75%, or 80% relative humidity (RH). Results revealed that diffusion constants increased with RH, the larger Cu2+ diffused more slowly than the K+, and the Cl diffusion constant was the same as that for the counter cation, indicating cations and anions diffused together to maintain charge neutrality. Comparison with electrical conductivity measurements showed that conductivity is being controlled by ion mobility over these RH. The results further support that intra-cell-wall diffusion of inorganic ions is a Fickian diffusion process occurring through rubbery amorphous polysaccharides, which contradicts previous assertions that intra-cell-wall diffusion is an aqueous process occurring through water pathways. Researchers can now utilize polymer science approaches to engineer the molecular architecture of lignocellulosic biomass to optimize properties for specific end uses.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberArticle No. 9919
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-74848


  • plant sciences
  • polymer characterization
  • polymers


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