Mechanistic understanding of salt-assisted autocatalytic hydrolysis of cellulose

Zhicheng Jiang, Jiajun Fan, Vitaliy L. Budarin, Duncan J. Macquarrie, Yang Gao, Tianzong Li, Changwei Hu*, James H. Clark

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Depolymerisation of cellulose is a critical step for biomass-based bio-refining processes to produce valuable chemicals. Herein, we propose the mechanism of the promoting effect of NaCl on the cellulose hydrolysis process based on a systematic kinetic study involving variable temperature studies and the use of deuterated agents. It has been found that the presence of NaCl simultaneously enhances the generation of acidic products from cellulose decomposition and pushes the generated protons to the surface of cellulose, dramatically increasing surface acidity and facilitating the autocatalytic hydrolysis of cellulose. Cl - disrupted the intermolecular hydrogen bonding of cellulose, especially in the first surface layer. Thus, the solid cellulose chains were peeled off layer-by-layer, leading to an accelerated hydrolysis of cellulose by the adsorbed protons. Without the need for traditional acidic catalysts, this autocatalytic depolymerisation of cellulose in water, assisted by salt provides a practically viable route to the enhanced conversion of biomass to chemicals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)936-940
Number of pages5
JournalSustainable Energy & Fuels
Issue number5
Early online date6 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2018. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

Cite this