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Molecular Insight into the Cosolvent Effect on Lignin–Cellulose Adhesion

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journal contribution
posted on 17.11.2020, 23:15 by Sonia Milena Aguilera-Segura, Francesco Di Renzo, Tzonka Mineva
Understanding and controlling the physical adsorption of lignin compounds on cellulose pulp are key parameters in the successful optimization of organosolv processes. The effect of binary organic–aqueous solvents on the coordination of lignin to cellulose was studied with molecular dynamics simulations, considering ethanol and acetonitrile to be organic cosolvents in aqueous solutions in comparison to their monocomponent counterparts. The structures of the solvation shells around cellulose and lignin and the energetics of lignin–cellulose adhesion indicate a more effective disruption of lignin–cellulose binding by binary solvents. The synergic effect between solvent components is explained by their preferential interactions with lignin–cellulose complexes. In the presence of pure water, long-lasting H-bonds in the lignin–cellulose complex are observed, promoted by the nonfavorable interactions of lignin with water. Ethanol and acetonitrile compete with water and lignin for cellulose oxygen binding sites, causing a nonlinear decrease in the lignin–cellulose interactions with the amount of the organic component. This effect is modulated by the water exclusion from the cellulose solvation shell by the organic solvent component. The amount and rate of water exclusion depend on the type of organic cosolvent and its concentration.