Molecular insights on the crystalline cellulose-water interfaces via three-dimensional atomic force microscopy

A Yurtsever and PX Wang and F Priante and YM Jaques and K Miyazawa and MJ MacLachlan and AS Foster and T Fukuma, SCIENCE ADVANCES, 8, eabq0160 (2022).

DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abq0160

Cellulose, a renewable structural biopolymer, is ubiquitous in nature and is the basic reinforcement component of the natural hierarchical structures of living plants, bacteria, and tunicates. However, a detailed picture of the crystalline cellulose surface at the molecular level is still unavailable. Here, using atomic force microscopy (AFM) and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we revealed the molecular details of the cellulose chain arrangements on the surfaces of individual cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) in water. Furthermore, we visualized the three-dimensional (3D) local arrangement of water molecules near the CNC surface using 3D AFM. AFM experiments and MD simulations showed anisotropic water structuring, as determined by the surface topologies and exposed chemical moieties. These findings provide important insights into our understanding of the interfacial interactions between CNCs and water at the molecular level. This may allow the establishment of the structure-property relationship of CNCs extracted from various biomass sources.

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