Observed Mechanism for the Breakup of Small Bundles of Cellulose I alpha and I beta in Ionic Liquids from Molecular Dynamics Simulations

BD Rabideau and A Agarwal and AE Ismail, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY B, 117, 3469-3479 (2013).

DOI: 10.1021/jp310225t

Explicit, all-atom molecular dynamics simulations are used to study the breakup of small bundles of cellulose I alpha and I beta in the ionic liquids (BMIMCl, EMIMAc, and DMIMDMP. In all cases, significant breakup of the bundles is observed with the initial breakup following a common underlying mechanism. Anions bind strongly to the hydroxyl groups of the exterior strands of the bundle, forming negatively charged complexes. Binding also weakens the intrastrand hydrogen bonds present in the cellulose strands, providing greater strand flexibility. Cations then intercalate between the individual strands, likely due to charge imbalances, providing the bulk to push the individual moieties apart and initiating the separation. The peeling of an individual strand from the main bundle is observed in EMIMAc with an analysis of its hydrogen bonds with other strands showing that the chain detaches glucan by glucan from the main bundle in discrete, rapid events. Further analysis shows that the intrastrand hydrogen bonds of each glucan tend to break for a sustained period of time before the interstrand hydrogen bonds break and strand detachment occurs. Examination of similar nonpeeling strands shows that, without this intrastrand hydrogen bond breakage, the structural rigidity of the individual unit can hinder its peeling despite interstrand hydrogen bond breakage.

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