Unique reactivity of nanoporous cellulosic materials mediated by surface-confined water

Marco Beaumont, Paul Jusner, Notburga Gierlinger, Alistair W.T. King, Antje Potthast, Orlando J. Rojas, Thomas Rosenau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


The remarkable efficiency of chemical reactions is the result of biological evolution, often involving confined water. Meanwhile, developments of bio-inspired systems, which exploit the potential of such water, have been so far rather complex and cumbersome. Here we show that surface-confined water, inherently present in widely abundant and renewable cellulosic fibres can be utilised as nanomedium to endow a singular chemical reactivity. Compared to surface acetylation in the dry state, confined water increases the reaction rate and efficiency by 8 times and 30%, respectively. Moreover, confined water enables control over chemical accessibility of selected hydroxyl groups through the extent of hydration, allowing regioselective reactions, a major challenge in cellulose modification. The reactions mediated by surface-confined water are sustainable and largely outperform those occurring in organic solvents in terms of efficiency and environmental compatibility. Our results demonstrate the unexploited potential of water bound to cellulosic nanostructures in surface esterifications, which can be extended to a wide range of other nanoporous polymeric structures and reactions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2513
Pages (from-to)2513
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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