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Keywords:

  • switchgrass;
  • cellulose fibers;
  • biomass;
  • fiber extraction

Abstract

We report the production and characteristics of natural cellulose fibers obtained from the leaves and stems of switchgrass. In this paper, the composition, structure and properties of fibers obtained from the leaves and stem of switchgrass have been studied in comparison to the common natural cellulose fibers, such as cotton, linen and kenaf. The leaves and stems of switchgrass have tensile properties intriguingly similar to that of linen and cotton, respectively. Fibers were obtained from the leaves and stems of switchgrass using a simple alkaline extraction and the structure and properties of the fibers were studied. Fibers obtained from switchgrass leaves have crystallinity of 51%, breaking tenacity of 5.5 g per denier (715 MPa) and breaking elongation of 2.2% whereas the corresponding values for fibers obtained from switchgrass stems are 46%, 2.7 g per denier and 6.8%, respectively. Switchgrass is a relatively easy to grow and high yield biomass crop that can be source to partially substitute the natural and synthetic fibers currently in use. We hope that this research will stimulate interests in using switchgrass as a novel fiber crop in addition to being promoted as a potential source for biofuels. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2007; 97: 1021–1027. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.