, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 217–231 | Cite as

Hydroxyalkylation of xylan using propylene carbonate: comparison of products from homo- and heterogeneous synthesis by HRMAS NMR and rheology

  • Youssef Akil
  • Romain Castellani
  • Ralph Lehnen
  • Tatiana Budtova
  • Bodo SaakeEmail author
Original Paper


Xylan is a highly available polysaccharide in the plant kingdom and is therefore a valuable resource for novel materials from renewable resources. Hydroxyalkylation is one of the most common reactions to derivatize biopolymers by altering hydroxyl groups. State of the art procedures incorporate epoxides, which are toxic, carcinogenic and highly explosive. In this study, hydroxyalkylation with propylene carbonate (PC) was used as green approach to synthesize xylan derivatives. Reaction pathways under homogeneous conditions, in dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), and heterogeneous conditions, without solvent, are compared. Analysis using liquid state and high resolution magic angle spinning (HRMAS) NMR, a novel approach for insoluble but swellable polysaccharide derivatives, as well as FTIR spectroscopy, hydrolysis in combination with borate anion exchange chromatography, and rheology showed significant differences regarding the structure of the products. While the degree of substitution (DS) is similar under both conditions, side chains are significantly longer under heterogeneous conditions, implying a higher rate of homopolymerization. This leads to a non-complete decarboxylation. The higher sterical hindrance imposed by longer side chains therefore leads to a higher tendency of xylose monosaccharides being derivatized at only one native hydroxyl group, while under homogeneous conditions a higher tendency towards double substitution can be observed. Rheology showed a shear thinning behaviour as well as an increase in viscosity with DS for samples from homogeneous synthesis. Products from solvent-free approach were analyzed in swollen state. They showed gel-like behaviour, whose elasticity increases with increasing DS as a result of side chain entanglement.


Xylan Hydroxyalkylation Propylene carbonate High resolution magic angle spinning Rheology 



The authors would like to acknowledge WoodWisdom Net + , the German funding agency Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (Ref. No. 2202214), the Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft and the Ministère de l’agriculture, de l’agroalimentaire et de la forêt for funding AEROWOOD project. Additionally the authors would like to acknowledge COST FP1205 for granting a short term scientific mission (STSM) to Youssef Akil. Furthermore Bernhard Ziegler from Thünen Institute for Wood Research for HRMAS NMR measurements and Nicole Erasmy from University of Hamburg for Borate-HPAEC measurements are gratefully acknowledged.

Supplementary material

10570_2017_1583_MOESM1_ESM.docx (220 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 220 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Youssef Akil
    • 1
  • Romain Castellani
    • 2
  • Ralph Lehnen
    • 3
  • Tatiana Budtova
    • 2
  • Bodo Saake
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Center for Wood SciencesUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.MINES ParisTech, PSL Research UniversityCentre de Mise en Forme des Matériaux (CEMEF)Sophia AntipolisFrance
  3. 3.Thünen Institute of Wood ResearchHamburgGermany

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