Cellulose nanofibrils show remarkable properties with applications in several fields of materials science, such as for composites, hydrogels, aerogels, foams, and coatings. Cellulose nanofibrils are typically produced by mechanical and enzymatic processing leading to fibrils having a width in the nanometer range and very high aspect ratios. The formation of percolating networks and interactions between fibrils lead to useful properties in for example gel formation and composites. In this work we studied how the residual xylan that is found in cellulose nanofibrils that have been produced from hardwood pulp affects these properties. We used enzymatic hydrolysis to specifically remove xylan and studied rheological properties, morphological features, and properties of paper-like films of cellulose nanofibrils. We found that removal of xylan enhances the formation of fibril networks, resulting in both stiffer gels and stronger films. However xylan also stabilizes the fibrils against flocculation. Also the history of processing of the preparations affects the results significantly.
Arola, S., Malho, J-M., Laaksonen, P., Lille, M., & Linder, M. B. (2013). The role of hemicellulose in nanofibrillated cellulose networks. Soft Matter, 9, 1319-1326. https://doi.org/10.1039/C2SM26932E