Towards a molecular understanding of cellulose dissolution in ionic liquids: anion/cation effect, synergistic mechanism and physicochemical aspects
Cellulose is one of the most abundant bio-renewable materials on the earth and its conversion to biofuels provides an appealing way to satisfy the increasing global energy demand. However, before carrying out the process of enzymolysis to glucose or polysaccharides, cellulose needs to be pretreated to overcome its recalcitrance. In recent years, a variety of ionic liquids (ILs) have been found to be effective solvents for cellulose, providing a new, feasible pretreatment strategy. A lot of experimental and computational studies have been carried out to investigate the dissolution mechanism. However, many details are not fully understood, which highlights the necessity to overview the current knowledge of cellulose dissolution and identify the research trend in the future. This perspective summarizes the mechanistic studies and microscopic insights of cellulose dissolution in ILs. Recent investigations of the synergistic effect of cations/anions and the distinctive structural changes of cellulose microfibril in ILs are also reviewed. Besides, understanding the factors controlling the dissolution process, such as the structure of anions/cations, viscosity of ILs, pretreatment temperature, heating rate, etc., has been discussed from a structural and physicochemical viewpoint. At the end, the existing problems are discussed and future prospects are given. We hope this article would be helpful for deeper understanding of the cellulose dissolution process in ILs and the rational design of more efficient and recyclable ILs.
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