Cellulose is an organic compound with the formula (C
, a polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of several hundred to many thousands of β(1→4) linked D-glucose units.[3][4] Cellulose is an important structural component of the primary cell wall of green plants, many forms of algae and the oomycetes. Some species of bacteria secrete it to form biofilms.[5] Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer on Earth.[6] The cellulose content of cotton fiber is 90%, that of wood is 40–50%, and that of dried hemp is approximately 57%.[7][8][9]

Cellulose is mainly used to produce paperboard and paper. Smaller quantities are converted into a wide variety of derivative products such as cellophane and rayon. Conversion of cellulose from energy crops into biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol is under development as a renewable fuel source. Cellulose for industrial use is mainly obtained from wood pulp and cotton.[6]

Some animals, particularly ruminants and termites, can digest cellulose with the help of symbiotic micro-organisms that live in their guts, such as Trichonympha. In human nutrition, cellulose is a non-digestible constituent of insoluble dietary fiber, acting as a hydrophilic bulking agent for feces and potentially aiding in defecation.

Cellulose, a linear polymer of D-glucose units (two are shown) linked by β(1→4)-glycosidic bonds.
Three-dimensional structure of cellulose
  • None
ECHA InfoCard 100.029.692
EC Number 232-674-9
E number E460 (thickeners, ...)
Molar mass 162.1406 g/mol per glucose unit
Appearance white powder
Density 1.5 g/cm3
Melting point 260–270 °C; 500–518 °F; 533–543 K Decomposes[2]
−963,000 J/mol
−2828,000 J/mol
NFPA 704
Flammability code 1: Must be pre-heated before ignition can occur. Flash point over 93 °C (200 °F). E.g., canola oilHealth code 1: Exposure would cause irritation but only minor residual injury. E.g., turpentineReactivity code 0: Normally stable, even under fire exposure conditions, and is not reactive with water. E.g., liquid nitrogenSpecial hazards (white): no codeNFPA 704 four-colored diamond
US health exposure limits (NIOSH):
PEL (Permissible)
TWA 15 mg/m3 (total) TWA 5 mg/m3 (resp)[2]
REL (Recommended)
TWA 10 mg/m3 (total) TWA 5 mg/m3 (resp)[2]
IDLH (Immediate danger)
Related compounds
Related compounds
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).


Cellulose was discovered in 1838 by the French chemist Anselme Payen, who isolated it from plant matter and determined its chemical formula.[3][10][11] Cellulose was used to produce the first successful thermoplastic polymer, celluloid, by Hyatt Manufacturing Company in 1870. Production of rayon ("artificial silk") from cellulose began in the 1890s and cellophane was invented in 1912. Hermann Staudinger determined the polymer structure of cellulose in 1920. The compound was first chemically synthesized (without the use of any biologically derived enzymes) in 1992, by Kobayashi and Shoda.[12]

Plant cell wall diagram-en
The arrangement of cellulose and other polysaccharides in a plant cell wall.

Structure and properties

Cellulose has no taste, is odorless, is hydrophilic with the contact angle of 20–30 degrees,[13] is insoluble in water and most organic solvents, is chiral and is biodegradable. It was shown to melt at 467 °C in 2016.[14] It can be broken down chemically into its glucose units by treating it with concentrated mineral acids at high temperature.[15]

Cellulose is derived from D-glucose units, which condense through β(1→4)-glycosidic bonds. This linkage motif contrasts with that for α(1→4)-glycosidic bonds present in starch and glycogen. Cellulose is a straight chain polymer. Unlike starch, no coiling or branching occurs and the molecule adopts an extended and rather stiff rod-like conformation, aided by the equatorial conformation of the glucose residues. The multiple hydroxyl groups on the glucose from one chain form hydrogen bonds with oxygen atoms on the same or on a neighbor chain, holding the chains firmly together side-by-side and forming microfibrils with high tensile strength. This confers tensile strength in cell walls, where cellulose microfibrils are meshed into a polysaccharide matrix.

Cellulose spacefilling model
A triple strand of cellulose showing the hydrogen bonds (cyan lines) between glucose strands
Cotton fibres represent the purest natural form of cellulose, containing more than 90% of this polysaccharide.

Compared to starch, cellulose is also much more crystalline. Whereas starch undergoes a crystalline to amorphous transition when heated beyond 60–70 °C in water (as in cooking), cellulose requires a temperature of 320 °C and pressure of 25 MPa to become amorphous in water.[16]

Several different crystalline structures of cellulose are known, corresponding to the location of hydrogen bonds between and within strands. Natural cellulose is cellulose I, with structures Iα and Iβ. Cellulose produced by bacteria and algae is enriched in Iα while cellulose of higher plants consists mainly of Iβ. Cellulose in regenerated cellulose fibers is cellulose II. The conversion of cellulose I to cellulose II is irreversible, suggesting that cellulose I is metastable and cellulose II is stable. With various chemical treatments it is possible to produce the structures cellulose III and cellulose IV.[17]

Many properties of cellulose depend on its chain length or degree of polymerization, the number of glucose units that make up one polymer molecule. Cellulose from wood pulp has typical chain lengths between 300 and 1700 units; cotton and other plant fibers as well as bacterial cellulose have chain lengths ranging from 800 to 10,000 units.[6] Molecules with very small chain length resulting from the breakdown of cellulose are known as cellodextrins; in contrast to long-chain cellulose, cellodextrins are typically soluble in water and organic solvents.

Cellulose contains 44.44% carbon, 6.17% hydrogen, and 49.39% oxygen. The chemical formula of cellulose is (C6H10O5)n where n is the degree of polymerization and represents the number of glucose groups.[18]

Plant-derived cellulose is usually found in a mixture with hemicellulose, lignin, pectin and other substances, while bacterial cellulose is quite pure, has a much higher water content and higher tensile strength due to higher chain lengths.[6]:3384

Cellulose is soluble in Schweizer's reagent, cupriethylenediamine (CED), cadmiumethylenediamine (Cadoxen), N-methylmorpholine N-oxide, and lithium chloride / dimethylacetamide.[19] This is used in the production of regenerated celluloses (such as viscose and cellophane) from dissolving pulp. Cellulose is also soluble in many kinds of ionic liquids.[20]

Cellulose consists of crystalline and amorphous regions. By treating it with strong acid, the amorphous regions can be broken up, thereby producing nanocrystalline cellulose, a novel material with many desirable properties.[21] Recently, nanocrystalline cellulose was used as the filler phase in bio-based polymer matrices to produce nanocomposites with superior thermal and mechanical properties.[22]



Given a cellulose-containing material, the carbohydrate portion that does not dissolve in a 17.5% solution of sodium hydroxide at 20 °C is α cellulose, which is true cellulose. Acidification of the extract precipitates β cellulose. The portion that dissolves in base but does not precipitate with acid is γ cellulose.

Cellulose can be assayed using a method described by Updegraff in 1969, where the fiber is dissolved in acetic and nitric acid to remove lignin, hemicellulose, and xylosans. The resulting cellulose is allowed to react with anthrone in sulfuric acid. The resulting coloured compound is assayed spectrophotometrically at a wavelength of approximately 635 nm.

In addition, cellulose is represented by the difference between acid detergent fiber (ADF) and acid detergent lignin (ADL).

Luminescent conjugated oligothiophenes can also be used to detect cellulose using fluorescence microscopy or spectrofluorometric methods.[23]


In plants cellulose is synthesized at the plasma membrane by rosette terminal complexes (RTCs). The RTCs are hexameric protein structures, approximately 25 nm in diameter, that contain the cellulose synthase enzymes that synthesise the individual cellulose chains.[24] Each RTC floats in the cell's plasma membrane and "spins" a microfibril into the cell wall.

RTCs contain at least three different cellulose synthases, encoded by CesA genes, in an unknown stoichiometry.[25] Separate sets of CesA genes are involved in primary and secondary cell wall biosynthesis. There are known to be about seven subfamilies in the CesA superfamily. These cellulose syntheses use UDP-glucose to form the β(1→4)-linked cellulose.[26]

Cellulose synthesis requires chain initiation and elongation, and the two processes are separate. CesA glucosyltransferase initiates cellulose polymerization using a steroid primer, sitosterol-beta-glucoside, and UDP-glucose.[27] Cellulose synthase utilizes UDP-D-glucose precursors to elongate the growing cellulose chain. A cellulase may function to cleave the primer from the mature chain.

Cellulose is also synthesised by tunicate animals, particularly in the tests of ascidians (where the cellulose was historically termed "tunicine" (tunicin)).[28]

Breakdown (cellulolysis)

Cellulolysis is the process of breaking down cellulose into smaller polysaccharides called cellodextrins or completely into glucose units; this is a hydrolysis reaction. Because cellulose molecules bind strongly to each other, cellulolysis is relatively difficult compared to the breakdown of other polysaccharides.[29] However, this process can be significantly intensified in a proper solvent, e.g. in an ionic liquid.[30]

Most mammals have limited ability to digest dietary fiber such as cellulose. Some ruminants like cows and sheep contain certain symbiotic anaerobic bacteria (like Cellulomonas) in the flora of the rumen, and these bacteria produce enzymes called cellulases that help the microorganism to digest cellulose; the breakdown products are then used by the bacteria for proliferation. The bacterial mass is later digested by the ruminant in its digestive system (stomach and small intestine). Horses use cellulose in their diet by fermentation in their hindgut via symbiotic bacteria which produce cellulase to digest cellulose. Similarly, some termites contain in their hindguts certain flagellate protozoa producing such enzymes, whereas others contain bacteria or may produce cellulase.[31]

The enzymes used to cleave the glycosidic linkage in cellulose are glycoside hydrolases including endo-acting cellulases and exo-acting glucosidases. Such enzymes are usually secreted as part of multienzyme complexes that may include dockerins and carbohydrate-binding modules.[32]

Breakdown (thermolysis)

At temperatures above 350 °C, cellulose undergoes thermolysis (also called ‘pyrolysis’), decomposing into solid char, vapors, aerosols, and gases such as carbon dioxide.[33] Maximum yield of vapors which condense to a liquid called bio-oil is obtained at 500 °C.[34]

Semi-crystalline cellulose polymers react at pyrolysis temperatures (350–600 °C) in a few seconds; this transformation has been shown to occur via a solid-to-liquid-to-vapor transition, with the liquid (called intermediate liquid cellulose or molten cellulose) existing for only a fraction of a second.[35] Glycosidic bond cleavage produces short cellulose chains of two-to-seven monomers comprising the melt. Vapor bubbling of intermediate liquid cellulose produces aerosols, which consist of short chain anhydro-oligomers derived from the melt.[36]

Continuing decomposition of molten cellulose produces volatile compounds including levoglucosan, furans, pyrans, light oxygenates and gases via primary reactions.[37] Within thick cellulose samples, volatile compounds such as levoglucosan undergo ‘secondary reactions’ to volatile products including pyrans and light oxygenates such as glycolaldehyde.[38]


Hemicelluloses are polysaccharides related to cellulose that comprise about 20% of the biomass of land plants. In contrast to cellulose, hemicelluloses are derived from several sugars in addition to glucose, especially xylose but also including mannose, galactose, rhamnose, and arabinose. Hemicelluloses consist of shorter chains – between 500 and 3000 sugar units.[39] Furthermore, hemicelluloses are branched, whereas cellulose is unbranched.


The hydroxyl groups (-OH) of cellulose can be partially or fully reacted with various reagents to afford derivatives with useful properties like mainly cellulose esters and cellulose ethers (-OR). In principle, though not always in current industrial practice, cellulosic polymers are renewable resources.

Ester derivatives include:

Cellulose ester Reagent Example Reagent Group R
Organic esters Organic acids Cellulose acetate Acetic acid and acetic anhydride H or -(C=O)CH3
Cellulose triacetate Acetic acid and acetic anhydride -(C=O)CH3
Cellulose propionate Propionic acid H or -(C=O)CH2CH3
Cellulose acetate propionate (CAP) Acetic acid and propanoic acid H or -(C=O)CH3 or -(C=O)CH2CH3
Cellulose acetate butyrate (CAB) Acetic acid and butyric acid H or -(C=O)CH3 or -(C=O)CH2CH2CH3
Inorganic esters Inorganic acids Nitrocellulose (cellulose nitrate) Nitric acid or another powerful nitrating agent H or -NO2
Cellulose sulfate Sulfuric acid or another powerful sulfuring agent H or -SO3H

The cellulose acetate and cellulose triacetate are film- and fiber-forming materials that find a variety of uses. The nitrocellulose was initially used as an explosive and was an early film forming material. With camphor, nitrocellulose gives celluloid.

Ether derivatives include:

Cellulose ethers Reagent Example Reagent Group R = H or Water solubility Application E number
Alkyl Halogenoalkanes Methylcellulose Chloromethane -CH3 Cold water-soluble E461
Ethylcellulose Chloroethane -CH2CH3 Water-insoluble A commercial thermoplastic used in coatings, inks, binders, and controlled-release drug tablets E462
Ethyl methyl cellulose Chloromethane and chloroethane -CH3 or -CH2CH3 E465
Hydroxyalkyl Epoxides Hydroxyethyl cellulose Ethylene oxide -CH2CH2OH Cold/hot water-soluble Gelling and thickening agent
Hydroxypropyl cellulose (HPC) Propylene oxide -CH2CH(OH)CH3 Cold water-soluble E463
Hydroxyethyl methyl cellulose Chloromethane and ethylene oxide -CH3 or -CH2CH2OH Cold water-soluble Production of cellulose films
Hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose (HPMC) Chloromethane and propylene oxide -CH3 or -CH2CH(OH)CH3 Cold water-soluble Viscosity modifier, gelling, foaming and binding agent E464
Ethyl hydroxyethyl cellulose Chloroethane and ethylene oxide -CH2CH3 or—CH2CH2OH E467
Carboxyalkyl Halogenated carboxylic acids Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) Chloroacetic acid -CH2COOH Cold/Hot water-soluble Often used as its sodium salt, sodium carboxymethyl cellulose (NaCMC) E466

The sodium carboxymethyl cellulose can be cross-linked to give the croscarmellose sodium (E468) for use as a disintegrant in pharmaceutical formulations.


Cellulose strand
A strand of cellulose (conformation Iα), showing the hydrogen bonds (dashed) within and between cellulose molecules.

Cellulose for industrial use is mainly obtained from wood pulp and cotton.[6] The kraft process is used to separate cellulose from lignin, another major component of plant matter.

  • Paper products: Cellulose is the major constituent of paper, paperboard, and card stock.
  • Fibers: Cellulose is the main ingredient of textiles made from cotton, linen, and other plant fibers. It can be turned into rayon, an important fiber that has been used for textiles since the beginning of the 20th century. Both cellophane and rayon are known as "regenerated cellulose fibers"; they are identical to cellulose in chemical structure and are usually made from dissolving pulp via viscose. A more recent and environmentally friendly method to produce a form of rayon is the Lyocell process.
  • Consumables: Microcrystalline cellulose (E460i) and powdered cellulose (E460ii) are used as inactive fillers in drug tablets[40] and a wide range of soluble cellulose derivatives, E numbers E461 to E469, are used as emulsifiers, thickeners and stabilizers in processed foods. Cellulose powder is, for example, used in processed cheese to prevent caking inside the package. Cellulose occurs naturally in some foods and is an additive in manufactured foods, contributing an indigestible component used for texture and bulk, potentially aiding in defecation.[41]
  • Science: Cellulose is used in the laboratory as a stationary phase for thin layer chromatography. Cellulose fibers are also used in liquid filtration, sometimes in combination with diatomaceous earth or other filtration media, to create a filter bed of inert material.
  • Energy crops: The major combustible component of non-food energy crops is cellulose, with lignin second. Non-food energy crops produce more usable energy than edible energy crops (which have a large starch component), but still compete with food crops for agricultural land and water resources.[42] Typical non-food energy crops include industrial hemp (though outlawed in some countries), switchgrass, Miscanthus, Salix (willow), and Populus (poplar) species.
  • Biofuel: TU-103, a strain of Clostridium bacteria found in zebra waste, can convert nearly any form of cellulose into butanol fuel.[43][44]
  • Building material: Hydroxyl bonding of cellulose in water produces a sprayable, moldable material as an alternative to the use of plastics and resins. The recyclable material can be made water- and fire-resistant. It provides sufficient strength for use as a building material.[45] Cellulose insulation made from recycled paper is becoming popular as an environmentally preferable material for building insulation. It can be treated with boric acid as a fire retardant.
  • Miscellaneous: Cellulose can be converted into cellophane, a thin transparent film. It is the base material for the celluloid that was used for photographic and movie films until the mid-1930s. Cellulose is used to make water-soluble adhesives and binders such as methyl cellulose and carboxymethyl cellulose which are used in wallpaper paste. Cellulose is further used to make hydrophilic and highly absorbent sponges. Cellulose is the raw material in the manufacture of nitrocellulose (cellulose nitrate) which is used in smokeless gunpowder.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Cellulose derivatives, such as microcrystalline cellulose (MCC), have the advantages of retaining water, being a stabilizer and thickening agent, and in reinforcement of drug tablets.[46]

See also


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A carbohydrate () is a biomolecule consisting of carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) atoms, usually with a hydrogen–oxygen atom ratio of 2:1 (as in water) and thus with the empirical formula Cm(H2O)n (where m may be different from n). This formula holds true for monosaccharides. Some exceptions exist; for example, deoxyribose, a sugar component of DNA, has the empirical formula C5H10O4. The carbohydrates are technically hydrates of carbon; structurally it is more accurate to view them as aldoses and ketoses.

The term is most common in biochemistry, where it is a synonym of 'saccharide', a group that includes sugars, starch, and cellulose. The saccharides are divided into four chemical groups: monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides. Monosaccharides and disaccharides, the smallest (lower molecular weight) carbohydrates, are commonly referred to as sugars. The word saccharide comes from the Greek word σάκχαρον (sákkharon), meaning "sugar". While the scientific nomenclature of carbohydrates is complex, the names of the monosaccharides and disaccharides very often end in the suffix -ose, as in the monosaccharides fructose (fruit sugar) and glucose (starch sugar) and the disaccharides sucrose (cane or beet sugar) and lactose (milk sugar).

Carbohydrates perform numerous roles in living organisms. Polysaccharides serve for the storage of energy (e.g. starch and glycogen) and as structural components (e.g. cellulose in plants and chitin in arthropods). The 5-carbon monosaccharide ribose is an important component of coenzymes (e.g. ATP, FAD and NAD) and the backbone of the genetic molecule known as RNA. The related deoxyribose is a component of DNA. Saccharides and their derivatives include many other important biomolecules that play key roles in the immune system, fertilization, preventing pathogenesis, blood clotting, and development.They are found in a wide variety of natural and processed foods. Starch is a polysaccharide. It is abundant in cereals (wheat, maize, rice), potatoes, and processed food based on cereal flour, such as bread, pizza or pasta. Sugars appear in human diet mainly as table sugar (sucrose, extracted from sugarcane or sugar beets), lactose (abundant in milk), glucose and fructose, both of which occur naturally in honey, many fruits, and some vegetables. Table sugar, milk, or honey are often added to drinks and many prepared foods such as jam, biscuits and cakes.

Cellulose, a polysaccharide found in the cell walls of all plants, is one of the main components of insoluble dietary fiber. Although it is not digestible, insoluble dietary fiber helps to maintain a healthy digestive system by easing defecation. Other polysaccharides contained in dietary fiber include resistant starch and inulin, which feed some bacteria in the microbiota of the large intestine, and are metabolized by these bacteria to yield short-chain fatty acids.

Carboxymethyl cellulose

Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) or cellulose gum or tylose powder is a cellulose derivative with carboxymethyl groups (-CH2-COOH) bound to some of the hydroxyl groups of the glucopyranose monomers that make up the cellulose backbone. It is often used as its sodium salt, sodium carboxymethyl cellulose.

Cell wall

A cell wall is a structural layer surrounding some types of cells, just outside the cell membrane. It can be tough, flexible, and sometimes rigid. It provides the cell with both structural support and protection, and also acts as a filtering mechanism. Cell walls are present in most prokaryotes (except mycoplasma bacteria), in algae, plants and fungi but rarely in other eukaryotes including animals. A major function is to act as pressure vessels, preventing over-expansion of the cell when water enters.

The composition of cell walls varies between species and may depend on cell type and developmental stage. The primary cell wall of land plants is composed of the polysaccharides cellulose, hemicelluloses and pectin. Often, other polymers such as lignin, suberin or cutin are anchored to or embedded in plant cell walls. Algae possess cell walls made of glycoproteins and polysaccharides such as carrageenan and agar that are absent from land plants. In bacteria, the cell wall is composed of peptidoglycan. The cell walls of archaea have various compositions, and may be formed of glycoprotein S-layers, pseudopeptidoglycan, or polysaccharides. Fungi possess cell walls made of the N-acetylglucosamine polymer chitin. Unusually, diatoms have a cell wall composed of biogenic silica.


Cellophane is a thin, transparent sheet made of regenerated cellulose. Its low permeability to air, oils, greases, bacteria, and water makes it useful for food packaging.

"Cellophane" is a generic term in some countries, while in other countries it is a registered trademark.


Cellulase is any of several enzymes produced chiefly by fungi, bacteria, and protozoans that catalyze cellulolysis, the decomposition of cellulose and of some related polysaccharides. The name is also used for any naturally occurring mixture or complex of various such enzymes, that act serially or synergistically to decompose cellulosic material.

Cellulases break down the cellulose molecule into monosaccharides ("simple sugars") such as beta-glucose, or shorter polysaccharides and oligosaccharides. Cellulose breakdown is of considerable economic importance, because it makes a major constituent of plants available for consumption and use in chemical reactions. The specific reaction involved is the hydrolysis of the 1,4-beta-D-glycosidic linkages in cellulose, hemicellulose, lichenin, and cereal beta-D-glucans. Because cellulose molecules bind strongly to each other, cellulolysis is relatively difficult compared to the breakdown of other polysaccharides such as starch.Most mammals have only very limited ability to digest dietary fibres such as cellulose by themselves. In many herbivorous animals such as ruminants like cattle and sheep and hindgut fermenters like horses, cellulases are produced by symbiotic bacteria. Cellulases are produced by a few types of animals, such as some termites and snails.Several different kinds of cellulases are known, which differ structurally and mechanistically. Synonyms, derivatives, and specific enzymes associated with the name "cellulase" include endo-1,4-beta-D-glucanase (beta-1,4-glucanase, beta-1,4-endoglucan hydrolase, endoglucanase D, 1,4-(1,3,1,4)-beta-D-glucan 4-glucanohydrolase), carboxymethyl cellulase (CMCase), avicelase, celludextrinase, cellulase A, cellulosin AP, alkali cellulase, cellulase A 3, 9.5 cellulase, and pancellase SS. Enzymes that cleave lignin have occasionally been called cellulases, but this old usage is deprecated; they are lignin-modifying enzymes.

Cellulose acetate

Cellulose acetate is the acetate ester of cellulose. It was first prepared in 1865. Cellulose acetate is used as a film base in photography, as a component in some coatings, and as a frame material for eyeglasses; it is also used as a synthetic fiber in the manufacture of cigarette filters and playing cards. In photographic film, cellulose acetate replaced nitrate film in the 1950s, being far less flammable and cheaper to produce.

Cellulose triacetate

Cellulose triacetate, (triacetate, CTA or TAC) is a chemical compound produced from cellulose and a source of acetate esters, typically acetic anhydride. Triacetate is commonly used for the creation of fibres and film base. It is chemically similar to cellulose acetate. Its distinguishing characteristic is that in triacetate, at least "92 percent of the hydroxyl groups are acetylated." During the manufacture of triacetate, the cellulose is completely acetylated; whereas in normal cellulose acetate or cellulose diacetate, it is only partially acetylated. Triacetate is significantly more heat resistant than cellulose acetate.

Cellulosic ethanol

Cellulosic ethanol is ethanol (ethyl alcohol) produced from cellulose (the stringy fiber of a plant) rather than from the plant's seeds or fruit. It is a biofuel produced from grasses, wood, algae, or other plants. The fibrous parts of the plants are mostly inedible to animals, including humans, except for ruminants (grazing, cud-chewing animals such as cows or sheep).

Considerable interest in cellulosic ethanol exists due to its important economical potential. Growth of cellulose by plants is a mechanism that captures and stores solar energy chemically in nontoxic ways with resultant supplies that are easy to transport and store. Additionally, transport may be unneeded anyway, because grasses or trees can grow almost anywhere temperate. This is why commercially practical cellulosic ethanol is widely viewed as a next level of development for the biofuel industry that could reduce demand for oil and gas drilling and even nuclear power in ways that grain-based ethanol fuel alone cannot. Potential exists for the many benefits of carbonaceous liquid fuels and petrochemicals (which today's standard of living depends on) but in a carbon cycle–balanced and renewable way (recycling surface and atmosphere carbon instead of pumping underground carbon up into it and thus adding to it). Commercially practical cellulosic alcohol could also avoid one of the problems with today's conventional (grain-based) biofuels, which is that they set up competition for grain with food purposes, potentially driving up the price of food. To date, what stands in the way of these goals is that production of cellulosic alcohol is not yet sufficiently practical on a commercial scale.

Cigarette filter

A cigarette filter is a component of a cigarette, along with cigarette paper, capsules and adhesives. It does not make cigarettes less unhealthy.The filter may be made from cellulose acetate fibre, paper or activated charcoal (either as a cavity filter or embedded into the cellulose acetate). Macroporous phenol-formaldehyde resins and asbestos have also been used in cigarette filters. The acetate and paper modify the particulate smoke phase by particle retention (filtration), and finely divided carbon modifies the gaseous phase (adsorption). Filters can reduce "tar" and nicotine smoke yields up to 50%, with a greater removal rate for other classes of compounds (e.g., phenols), but are ineffective in filtering toxins such as carbon monoxide. Most of these measured reductions occur only when the cigarette is smoked on a smoking machine; when a human smokes them, deliveries remain similar with or without a filter.Most factory-made cigarettes are equipped with a filter; those who roll their own can buy them from a tobacconist. The near-universal adoption of filters on cigarettes has not reduced harms to smokers and lung cancer rates have not declined.Filling a given length of cigarette with filter is cheaper than filling it with tobacco.


Fiber or fibre (see spelling differences, from the Latin fibra) is a natural or synthetic substance that is significantly longer than it is wide. Fibers are often used in the manufacture of other materials. The strongest engineering materials often incorporate fibers, for example carbon fiber and ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene.

Synthetic fibers can often be produced very cheaply and in large amounts compared to natural fibers, but for clothing natural fibers can give some benefits, such as comfort, over their synthetic counterparts.

Film base

A film base is a transparent substrate which acts as a support medium for the photosensitive emulsion that lies atop it. Despite the numerous layers and coatings associated with the emulsion layer, the base generally accounts for the vast majority of the thickness of any given film stock. Historically there have been three major types of film base in use: nitrocellulose (cellulose nitrate), cellulose acetate (cellulose triacetate, cellulose diacetate, cellulose acetate propionate, and cellulose acetate butyrate), and polyester (polyethylene terephthalate (PET) (Kodak trade-name: ESTAR)).


A hemicellulose (also known as polyose) is one of a number of heteropolymer (matrix polysaccharides), such as arabinoxylans, present along with cellulose in almost all terrestrial plant cell walls. While cellulose is crystalline, strong, and resistant to hydrolysis, hemicelluloses have random, amorphous structure with little strength. They are easily hydrolyzed by dilute acid or base as well as a myriad of hemicellulase enzymes.

Methyl cellulose

Methyl cellulose (or methylcellulose) is a chemical compound derived from cellulose. It is a hydrophilic white powder in pure form and dissolves in cold (but not in hot) water, forming a clear viscous solution or gel. It is sold under a variety of trade names and is used as a thickener and emulsifier in various food and cosmetic products, and also as a treatment of constipation. Like cellulose, it is not digestible, not toxic, and not an allergen.


Nanocellulose is a term referring to nano-structured cellulose. This may be either cellulose nanocrystal (CNC or NCC), cellulose nanofibers (CNF) also called microfibrillated cellulose (MFC), or bacterial nanocellulose, which refers to nano-structured cellulose produced by bacteria.

CNF is a material composed of nanosized cellulose fibrils with a high aspect ratio (length to width ratio). Typical fibril widths are 5–20 nanometers with a wide range of lengths, typically several micrometers. It is pseudo-plastic and exhibits thixotropy, the property of certain gels or fluids that are thick (viscous) under normal conditions, but become less viscous when shaken or agitated. When the shearing forces are removed the gel regains much of its original state. The fibrils are isolated from any cellulose containing source including wood-based fibers (pulp fibers) through high-pressure, high temperature and high velocity impact homogenization, grinding or microfluidization (see manufacture below).

Nanocellulose can also be obtained from native fibers by an acid hydrolysis, giving rise to highly crystalline and rigid nanoparticles which are shorter (100s to 1000 nanometers) than the nanofibrils obtained through homogenization, microfluiodization or grinding routes. The resulting material is known as cellulose nanocrystal (CNC).


Nitrocellulose (also known as cellulose nitrate, flash paper, flash cotton, guncotton, and flash string) is a highly flammable compound formed by nitrating cellulose through exposure to nitric acid or another powerful nitrating agent. When used as a propellant or low-order explosive, it was originally known as guncotton.

Partially nitrated cellulose has found uses as a plastic film and in inks and wood coatings. In 1862, the first man-made plastic, nitrocellulose (branded Parkesine), was created by Alexander Parkes from cellulose treated with nitric acid and a solvent. In 1868, American inventor John Wesley Hyatt developed a plastic material he named Celluloid, improving on Parkes' invention by plasticizing the nitrocellulose with camphor so it could be processed into finished form and used as a photographic film. Celluloid was used by Kodak, and other suppliers, from the late 1880s as a film base in photography, X-ray films, and motion-picture films, and was known as nitrate film. After numerous fires caused by unstable nitrate films, "safety film" (cellulose acetate film) started to be used from the 1930s in the case of X-ray stock and from 1948 for motion-picture film.


Polysaccharides () are polymeric carbohydrate molecules composed of long chains of monosaccharide units bound together by glycosidic linkages, and on hydrolysis give the constituent monosaccharides or oligosaccharides. They range in structure from linear to highly branched. Examples include storage polysaccharides such as starch and glycogen, and structural polysaccharides such as cellulose and chitin.

Polysaccharides are often quite heterogeneous, containing slight modifications of the repeating unit. Depending on the structure, these macromolecules can have distinct properties from their monosaccharide building blocks. They may be amorphous or even insoluble in water. When all the monosaccharides in a polysaccharide are the same type, the polysaccharide is called a homopolysaccharide or homoglycan, but when more than one type of monosaccharide is present they are called heteropolysaccharides or heteroglycans.Natural saccharides are generally of simple carbohydrates called monosaccharides with general formula (CH2O)n where n is three or more. Examples of monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, and glyceraldehyde. Polysaccharides, meanwhile, have a general formula of Cx(H2O)y where x is usually a large number between 200 and 2500. When the repeating units in the polymer backbone are six-carbon monosaccharides, as is often the case, the general formula simplifies to (C6H10O5)n, where typically 40≤n≤3000.

As a rule of thumb, polysaccharides contain more than ten monosaccharide units, whereas oligosaccharides contain three to ten monosaccharide units; but the precise cutoff varies somewhat according to convention. Polysaccharides are an important class of biological polymers. Their function in living organisms is usually either structure- or storage-related. Starch (a polymer of glucose) is used as a storage polysaccharide in plants, being found in the form of both amylose and the branched amylopectin. In animals, the structurally similar glucose polymer is the more densely branched glycogen, sometimes called "animal starch". Glycogen's properties allow it to be metabolized more quickly, which suits the active lives of moving animals.

Cellulose and chitin are examples of structural polysaccharides. Cellulose is used in the cell walls of plants and other organisms, and is said to be the most abundant organic molecule on Earth. It has many uses such as a significant role in the paper and textile industries, and is used as a feedstock for the production of rayon (via the viscose process), cellulose acetate, celluloid, and nitrocellulose. Chitin has a similar structure, but has nitrogen-containing side branches, increasing its strength. It is found in arthropod exoskeletons and in the cell walls of some fungi. It also has multiple uses, including surgical threads. Polysaccharides also include callose or laminarin, chrysolaminarin, xylan, arabinoxylan, mannan, fucoidan and galactomannan.

Pulp (paper)

Pulp is a lignocellulosic fibrous material prepared by chemically or mechanically separating cellulose fibres from wood, fiber crops, waste paper, or rags. Many kinds of paper are made from wood with nothing else mixed into them. This includes newspapers, magazines and even toilet paper. Pulp is one of the most abundant raw materials .


Rayon is a manufactured fiber made from regenerated cellulose fiber. The many types and grades of rayon can imitate the feel and texture of natural fibers such as silk, wool, cotton, and linen. The types that resemble silk are often called artificial silk.

Although rayon is manufactured from naturally occurring polymers, it is not considered to be synthetic. Technically, the term synthetic fiber is reserved for fully synthetic fibers. In manufacturing terms, rayon is classified as "a fiber formed by regenerating natural materials into a usable form". Specific types of rayon include viscose, modal and lyocell, each of which differs in manufacturing process and properties of the finished product.

Rayon is made from purified cellulose, harvested primarily from wood pulp, which is chemically converted into a soluble compound. It is then dissolved and forced through a spinneret to produce filaments which are chemically solidified, resulting in fibers of nearly pure cellulose. Unless handled carefully, workers can be seriously harmed by the carbon disulfide used to manufacture most rayon.


Viscose is a semi-synthetic fiber. "Viscose" can mean:

A viscous solution of cellulose, which can be made into rayon or cellophane

A synonym for rayon

A specific term for viscose rayon—rayon made using the viscose (cellulose xanthate) processThe viscose process dissolves pulp with aqueous sodium hydroxide in the presence of carbon disulfide. This viscous solution bears the name viscose. The cellulose solution is used to spin the viscose rayon fiber, which may also be called viscose. Viscose rayon fiber is a soft fiber commonly used in dresses, linings, shirts, shorts, coats, jackets, and other outerwear. It is also used in industrial yarns (tyre cord), upholstery and carpets, and in the casting of cellophane.

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