Steady-state fluorescence emission spectra of various celluloses were measured at an excitation wavelength of 320 nm. Various spectra recorded in the solid state were compared: (1) ECF bleached papers made of hardwood, the anhydroglucose units of which were chemically modified at C1 and C6 or C2 and C3 positions with carboxylic groups; (2) microcrystalline cellulose; (3) cotton linters; and (4) delignified sisal fibers (mercerized or not). Fluorescence emission was quite independent of the carboxylic acid content and average molecular weight (determined by viscosimetry) of the cellulose polymers. Microcrystalline cellulose (Avicel), cotton linters, and mercerized delignified sisal cellulose were acetylated in homogeneous medium (DMAc/LiCl as solvent system) to obtain soluble polymers in dichloromethane for comparison of spectra recorded in the solid and liquid states. Fluorescence of cellulose acetates in solution (CH2Cl2) and in the solid state was compared under similar experimental conditions to non-esterified celluloses in the solid state. The importance of the solid state for fluorescence emission could be demonstrated. Fluorophores are present in minute amounts in the polymer and their favorable energy transfer for excitation in the solid state likely enhances fluorescence emission. Among numerous fluorophores, dityrosine appeared to be a good candidate for fluorescence because it displayed emission in the fluorescence range of cellulose. Dityrosine is an amino acid involved in the lignification of non-woody plants. Mercerized sisal impregnated with tyrosine in the presence of peroxidase and hydrogen peroxide did not show enhanced emission, in contrast to para-hydroxycinnamic acid (coumaric acid), which is also involved in the lignification process at least for non-woody plants. The origin of cellulose fluorescence remains uncertain and appears to have several origins. This study clearly underlines the importance of the solid state for enhancing fluorophore emission.
A trimeric β-O-4 lignin model bearing a styrene unit was polymerized in the presence of azobisisobutyronitrile as an initiator of free radical polymerization. The polymer analysis achieved by size exclusion chromatography (SEC), 1H, 13C, 31P NMR, matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization combined with time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-ToF MS), differential scanning calorimetry, and thermogravimetry indicated its well-defined structure with good thermal stability at temperatures usually applied for alkaline pulping. SEC analysis proved a high degree of polymerization despite the size of the phenolic β-O-4 units in the polymer structure. MALDI-ToF spectrometry indicated that the polymer is composed of phenolic β-O-4 elements only. The chemical reactivity under alkaline conditions of the polymer was studied by both HPLC and 31P NMR. These two methods revealed two main concurrent processes, which include an oxidation of the phenol part followed by Cα-Cβ bond cleavage, and a formation of a quinone methide followed by its β-O-4 bond cleavage.