Investigation of cellulose dissolution in morpholinium-based solvents: impact of solvent structural features on cellulose dissolution

RSC Adv. 2023 Jun 20;13(27):18639-18650. doi: 10.1039/d3ra03370h. eCollection 2023 Jun 15.


A series of N-methylmorpholinium salts with varying N-alkyl chains and Cl-, OAc- and OH- as counter ions have been synthesized and investigated for their ability to dissolve cellulose, aiming at elucidating solvent structural features affecting cellulose dissolution. Synthesis procedures have been developed to, to a high extent, rely on conversions in water and microwave-assisted reactions employing a reduced number of work-up steps and ion-exchange resins that can be regenerated. Water solutions of morpholinium hydroxides proved capable of dissolving cellulose, with those of them possessing alkyl chains longer than ethyl showing surprising dissolution ability at room-temperature. Morpholinium acetates behaved as ionic liquids, and were also capable of dissolving cellulose when combined with DMSO. The obtained cellulose solutions were characterized according to their chemical and colloidal stability using 13C NMR spectroscopy, size exclusion chromatography and flow sweep measurements, while the ethanol coagulates were investigated in terms of crystallinity using solid state NMR. In contrast, the morpholinium chlorides obtained were hygroscopic with high melting points and low solubility in common organic solvents e.g., acetone, DMSO and DMAc, thus lacking the ability to swell or dissolve cellulose.