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Keywords:

  • biopolymers and renewable polymers;
  • cellulose and other wood products;
  • polysaccharides

ABSTRACT

This study aims to investigate the effect of microwave heating versus conventional heating for the alkaline hydrolysis of xylan from birch wood to understand the effect of the heating process on the dissolution of wood, the yield of xylan, and the degree of polymerization of the isolated xylan. The results indicate that the rate of wood dissolution is significantly higher (0.020/s) during microwave extraction than the conventional extraction (0.001/s). Wood solubilization, after an initial rapid removal of damaged fibers, is linear with time for both conventional and microwave extraction, with microwave showing a rate 20 times faster. The yield of xylan reaches a limit of about 60% for both processes but then declines slowly as thermal degradation become significant. Microwave heating provides 60% yield in 1/10th the time of the conventional process. This is found to be associated with the rapid temperature rise, and also with local “hot spots” generated during microwave treatment. The results indicated that xylan degradation was significant above 95°C. The nature of the isolated xylan was different for the two heating methods: the xylan isolated using microwave extraction for 20 min exhibits higher molecular weight (i.e., a greater degree of polymerization, about 150) than the xylan isolated using conventional extraction for the same duration (degree of polymerization, about 124) demonstrating the effectiveness of microwave heating for extraction of xylan from wood. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2015, 132, 41330.