Highly regioselective surface acetylation of cellulose and shaped cellulose constructs in the gas-phase

Tetyana Koso, Marco Beaumont, Blaise L. Tardy, Daniel Rico del Cerro, Samuel Eyley, Wim Thielemans, Orlando J. Rojas, Ilkka Kilpeläinen, Alistair W.T. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Gas-phase acylation is an attractive and sustainable method for modifying the surface properties of cellulosics. However, little is known concerning the regioselectivity of the chemistry, i.e., which cellulose hydroxyls are preferentially acylated and if acylation can be restricted to the surface, preserving crystallinities/morphologies. Consequently, we reexplore simple gas-phase acetylation of modern-day cellulosic building blocks - cellulose nanocrystals, pulps, dry-jet wet spun (regenerated cellulose) fibres and a nanocellulose-based aerogel. Using advanced analytics, we show that the gas-phase acetylation is highly regioselective for the C6-OH, a finding also supported by DFT-based transition-state modelling on a crystalloid surface. This contrasts with acid- and base-catalysed liquid-phase acetylation methods, highlighting that gas-phase chemistry is much more controllable, yet with similar kinetics, to the uncatalyzed liquid-phase reactions. Furthermore, this method preserves both the native (or regenerated) crystalline structure of the cellulose and the supramolecular morphology of even delicate cellulosic constructs (nanocellulose aerogel exhibiting chiral cholesteric liquid crystalline phases). Due to the soft nature of this chemistry and an ability to finely control the kinetics, yielding highly regioselective low degree of substitution products, we are convinced this method will facilitate the rapid adoption of precisely tailored and biodegradable cellulosic materials.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)5604-5613
Number of pages10
JournalGreen Chemistry
Issue number14
StatePublished - 21 Jun 2022


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