Hierarchical architecture of bacterial cellulose and composite plant cell wall polysaccharide hydrogels using small angle neutron scattering†
Small angle neutron scattering (SANS) has been applied to characterise the structure of pure bacterial cellulose hydrogels, and composites thereof, with two plant cell wall polysaccharides (arabinoxylan and xyloglucan). Conventional published models, which assume that bacterial cellulose ribbons are solid one-phase systems, fail to adequately describe the SANS data of pure bacterial cellulose. Fitting of the neutron scattering profiles instead suggests that the sub-structure of cellulose microfibrils contained within the ribbons results in the creation of regions with distinct values of neutron scattering length density, when the hydrogels are subjected to H2O/D2O exchange. This may be represented within a core–shell formalism that considers the cellulose ribbons to comprise a core containing impermeable crystallites surrounded by a network of paracrystalline cellulose and tightly bound water, and a shell containing only paracrystalline cellulose and water. Accordingly, a fitting function comprising the sum of a power-law term to account for the large scale structure of intertwined ribbons, plus a core–shell cylinder with polydisperse radius, has been applied; it is demonstrated to simultaneously describe all SANS contrast variation data of pure and composite bacterial cellulose hydrogels. In addition, the resultant fitting parameters indicate distinct interaction mechanisms of arabinoxylan and xyloglucan with cellulose, revealing the potential of this approach to investigate the role of different plant cell wall polysaccharides on the biosynthesis process of cellulose.