Cotton production is reaching a global limit, leading to a growing demand for bio-based textile fibers produced by other means. Textile fibers based on regenerated cellulose from wood holds great potential, but in order to produce fibers, the components need to be dissolved in suitable solvents. Furthermore, the dissolution process of cellulose is not yet fully understood. In this study, we investigated the dissolution state of microcrystalline cellulose in aqueous NaOH by using primarily scattering methods. Contrary to previous findings, this study indicated that cellulose concentrations of up to 2 wt % are completely molecularly dissolved in 8 wt % NaOH. Scattering data furthermore revealed the presence of semi-flexible cylinders with stiff segments. In order to improve the dissolution capability of NaOH, the effects of different additives have been of interest. In this study, scattering data indicated that the addition of ZnO decreased the formation of aggregates, while the addition of PEG did not improve the dissolution properties significantly, although preliminary NMR data did suggest a weak attraction between PEG and cellulose. Overall, this study sheds further light on the dissolution of cellulose in NaOH and highlights the use of scattering methods to assess solvent quality.
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