Aqueous alkaline systems are among the most prominent and sustainable conversion media for cellulose (of particular importance for large scale processes). Introducing functionalizing chemistry into these solutions is an important strategy in broadening their applications. While highly challenging in this aspect due to high alkalinity and extensive water side-reactions, these systems offer some advantages: a highly reactive cellulose (carrying reactive alkoxides) and possibilities to water exclusion due to amphiphilic nature of cellulose chains. The former gives rise to a specific interaction with CO2(g) which can be utilized as an intermediate step in functionalizing approaches; the latter can be used to design a locally more favorable reaction environment. In this project we focus on understanding and utilizing these two assets. The work is closely related to elucidation of fundamental interactions governing cellulose behavior in these solutions (degree of deprotonation, conformation and supramolecular organization, stabilizing interactions).
The main objective of the project is to address the following scientific questions:
Can specific interactions of cellulose alkoxides with CO2 in these highly alkaline solutions be employed as an intermediate step in chemical conversions of cellulose?
How can composition and behavior of aqueous alkaline solutions of cellulose be tailored in order to turn them into more favorable derivatization media?