, Volume 25, Issue 10, pp 5553–5568 | Cite as

Breaking down cellulose fibrils with a mid-infrared laser

  • Dominik DominEmail author
  • Viet Hoang Man
  • Nguyen-Thi Van-Oanh
  • Junmei Wang
  • Takayasu Kawasaki
  • Philippe Derreumaux
  • Phuong H. Nguyen
Original Paper



A novel process for the separation of crystalline cellulose in water into single polysaccharide strands is proposed that does not require high temperatures or other chemical reactants. We have modeled the behavior of a 36-strand cellulose \(\hbox {I}\beta\) crystalline bundle when subjected to picosecond mid-infrared laser pulses using all-atom non-equilibrium molecular dynamics simulations. We show that mid-infrared laser pulses that induce resonance deformations in the C–O–H angles of the hydroxyl groups that are involved in the hydrogen bonding network of cellulose, rapidly cause the cellulose bundles to dissociate into single strands solvated by the water. The laser pulses selectively disrupt intra- and inter-chain hydrogen bonds that maintain the polysaccharide strands in sheets and bundles, causing cellulose to dissolve into single strands whose end-to-end lengths remain similar to those in the original cellulose crystalline bundle. This proof-of-concept work provides guidance for experiments that may provide insight into the mechanism of cellulase enzymes whose improvement could lead to increased production of ethanol from cellulose, and possibly spur the development of new nanomaterial engineering techniques.

Graphical Abstract


Laser Cellulose Non-equilibrium simulation Ionic liquid 



This work has been supported by CNRS, the Grant ANR-11-LABEX-0011-01, the National Science Foundation (NSF) USA via Grants SI2-1148144 and 154941, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) USA via Grants R01-GM079383 and R21- GM097617, and the IDRIS, CINES, TGCC centers for providing computer facilities (Grants x2015077198, A0020710174 and A0030707721).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dominik Domin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Viet Hoang Man
    • 2
  • Nguyen-Thi Van-Oanh
    • 3
  • Junmei Wang
    • 2
  • Takayasu Kawasaki
    • 4
  • Philippe Derreumaux
    • 5
  • Phuong H. Nguyen
    • 5
  1. 1.Direction de la Recherche Fondamentale, Maison de la SimulationUSR 3441Gif-sur-Yvette CedexFrance
  2. 2.Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of PharmacyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Laboratoire de Chimie Physique, CNRSUniversité Paris Sud, Université Paris-SaclayOrsay CedexFrance
  4. 4.IR Free Electron Laser Research Center, Research Institute for Science and Technology, Organization for Research AdvancementTokyo University of ScienceNodaJapan
  5. 5.Laboratoire de Biochimie Théorique, UPR 9080 CNRS, IBPCUniversité Denis Diderot, Paris Sorbonne CitéParisFrance

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