Cellulose is an organic compound with the formula (C
n, a polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of several hundred to over ten thousand β(1→4) linked D-glucose units. Cellulose is an important structural component of the primary cell wall of green plants, many forms of algae and the oomycetes. Some species of bacteria secrete it to form biofilms. Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer on Earth. The cellulose content of cotton fiber is 90%, that of wood is 40–50% and that of dried hemp is approximately 45%.
Cellulose is mainly used to produce paperboard and paper. Smaller quantities are converted into a wide variety of derivative products such as cellophane and rayon. Conversion of cellulose from energy crops into biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol is under investigation as an alternative fuel source. Cellulose for industrial use is mainly obtained from wood pulp and cotton.
Some animals, particularly ruminants and termites, can digest cellulose with the help of symbiotic micro-organisms that live in their guts, such as Trichonympha. Humans can digest cellulose to some extent, but it mainly acts as a hydrophilic bulking agent for feces and is often referred to as a "dietary fiber".
Cellulose was discovered in 1838 by the French chemist Anselme Payen, who isolated it from plant matter and determined its chemical formula. Cellulose was used to produce the first successful thermoplastic polymer, celluloid, by Hyatt Manufacturing Company in 1870. Production of rayon ("artificial silk") from cellulose began in the 1890s and cellophane was invented in 1912. Hermann Staudinger determined the polymer structure of cellulose in 1920. The compound was first chemically synthesized (without the use of any biologically derived enzymes) in 1992, by Kobayashi and Shoda.
The arrangement of cellulose and other polysaccharides in a plant cell wall.
Structure and properties...