Computational study of the dissolution of cellulose into single chains: the role of the solvent and agitation
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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We investigate the dissolution mechanism of cellulose using molecular dynamics simulations in both water and a mixture solvent consisting of water with Na+, OH− and urea. As a first computational study of its kind, we apply periodic external forces that mimic agitation of the suspension. Without the agitation, the bundles do not dissolve, neither in water nor solvent. In the solvent mixture the bundle swells with significant amounts of urea entering the bundle, as well as more water than in the bundles subjected to pure water. We also find that the mixture solution stabilizes cellulose sheets, while in water these immediately collapse into bundles. Under agitation the bundles dissolve more easily in the solvent mixture than in water, where sheets of cellulose remain that are bound together through hydrophobic interactions. Our findings highlight the importance of urea in the solvent, as well as the hydrophobic interactions, and are consistent with experimental results.