In order to obtain accurate information about the ultrastructure of cellulose from native biomass by 13
C cross polarization magic angle spinning (CP/MAS) NMR spectroscopy the cellulose component must be isolated due to overlapping resonances from both lignin and hemicellulose. Typically, cellulose isolation has been achieved via holocellulose pulping to remove lignin followed by an acid hydrolysis procedure to remove the hemicellulose components. Using 13
C CP/MAS NMR and non-linear line-fitting of the cellulose C4
region, it was observed that the standard acid hydrolysis procedure caused an apparent increase in crystallinity of ~10% or less on the cellulose isolated from Populus
holocellulose. We have examined the effect of the cellulose isolation method, particularly the acid treatment time for hemicellulose removal, on cellulose ultrastructural characteristics by studying these effects on cotton, microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) and holocellulose pulped Populus
C CP/MAS NMR of MCC indicated that holocellulose pulping and acid hydrolysis has little effect on the crystalline ultrastructural components of cellulose. Although any chemical method to isolate cellulose from native biomass will invariably alter substrate characteristics, especially those related to regions accessible to solvents, we found those changes to be minimal and consistent in samples of typical crystallinity and lignin/hemicellulose content. Based on the rate of the hemicellulose removal, as determined by HPLC-carbohydrate analysis and magnitude of cellulose ultrastructural alteration, the most suitable cellulose isolation methodology utilizes a
treatment of 2.5 M HCl at 100 °C for a standard residence time between 1.5 and 4 h. However, for the most accurate crystallinity results this residence time should be determined empirically for a particular sample.