Dissolution of wood in ionic liquids

Ilkka Kilpeläinen, Haibo Xie, Alistair King, Mari Granstrom, Sami Heikkinen, Dimitris S. Argyropoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

884 Citations (Scopus)


The present paper demonstrates that both hardwoods and softwoods are readily soluble in various imidazolium-based ionic liquids (ILs) under gentle conditions. More specifically, a variety of ionic liquids can only partially dissolve wood chips, whereas ionic liquids such as 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride and 1-allyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride have good solvating power for Norway spruce sawdust and Norway spruce and Southern pine thermomechanical pulp (TMP) fibers. Despite the fact that the obtained solutions were not fully clear, these ionic liquids provided solutions which permitted the complete acetylation of the wood. Alternatively, transparent amber solutions of wood could be obtained when the dissolution of the same lignocellulosic samples was attempted in 1-benzyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride. This realization was based on a designed augmented interaction of the aromatic character of the cation of the ionic liquid with the lignin in the wood. After dissolution, wood can be regenerated as an amorphous mixture of its original components. The cellulose of the regenerated wood can be efficiently digested to glucose by a cellulase enzymatic hydrolysis treatment. Furthermore, completely acetylated wood was found to be readily soluble in chloroform, allowing, for the first time, detailed proton nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectra and NMR diffusion measurements to be made. It was thus demonstrated that the dissolution of wood in ionic liquids now offers a variety of new possibilities for its structural and macromolecular characterization, without the prior isolation of its individual components. Furthermore, considering the relatively wide solubility and compatibility of ionic liquids with many organic or inorganic functional chemicals or polymers, it is envisaged that this research could create a variety of new strategies for converting abundant woody biomass to valuable biofuels, chemicals, and novel functional composite biomaterials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9142-9148
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2007
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Cellulase digestion
  • Cellulose
  • Characterization
  • Derivatization
  • Diffusion studies
  • Dissolution
  • Ionic liquids
  • Lignin
  • NMR
  • Regeneration
  • Wood


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