The structure of cellulose microfibrils in situ in wood from the dicotyledonous (hardwood) species cherry and birch, and the vascular tissue from sunflower stems, was examined by wide-angle X-ray and neutron scattering (WAXS and WANS) and small-angle neutron scattering (SANS). Deuteration of accessible cellulose chains followed by WANS showed that these chains were packed at similar spacings to crystalline cellulose, consistent with their inclusion in the microfibril dimensions and with a location at the surface of the microfibrils. Using the Scherrer equation and correcting for considerable lateral disorder, the microfibril dimensions of cherry, birch and sunflower microfibrils perpendicular to the  crystal plane were estimated as 3.0, 3.4 and 3.3 nm respectively. The lateral dimensions in other directions were more difficult to correct for disorder but appeared to be 3 nm or less. However for cherry and sunflower, the microfibril spacing estimated by SANS was about 4 nm and was insensitive to the presence of moisture. If the microfibril width was 3 nm as estimated by WAXS, the SANS spacing suggests that a non-cellulosic polymer segment might in places separate the aggregated cellulose microfibrils.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Polymers and Plastics