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Hemicellulose Products

The high hemicellulose content of biomass offers significant potential for new wood-based products and presents biorefineries of the future with interesting opportunities.

The hemicellulose content of wood is between 15 and 30 %. It is possible to extract hemicellulose from wood using a variety of techniques. Once isolated, the potential applications for hemicellulose include barrier materials for food packaging or biopolymers with new properties.

Xylan as a strengthening agent

For instance, xylan that has a high molecular weight can be extracted from process streams from production of kraft pulp. Xylan has a good affinity with cellulose, making it suitable for use as a strengthening agent in paper or in biocomposites in combination with cellulose. It can also be modified to produce new material properties, such as hydrophobicity and thermal formability.

Modification can also result in the xylan exhibiting an improved ability to form films. Film-forming is necessary in order for xylan to be able to form self-supporting barrier films for use in food packaging. 

The hemicellulose xylan can be extracted from wood-based biorefineries and converted into e.g. barrier materials for food packaging or biopolymers with new properties.

Xylan can be extracted from wood-based biorefineries and processed into for example barrier materials for food packaging or new biopolymers.

Glucomannan for barrier films

Glucomannan is another wood hemicellulose with interesting film-forming properties. It exists in significant quantities in wood from coniferous trees, such as spruce, and can be extracted from process streams from newsprint mills or from manufacturing fibreboard.

Films consisting of glucomannan have demonstrated good gas barrier properties, and therefore have potential for use as components in barrier coating for cardboard used in food packaging. Cross-linked glucomannan has good water absorption properties, and could be a potential alternative as a “green” absorption material (gels, etc.).


Anders Uhlin
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Modification of birch xylan by lactide-grafting
Persson J, Dahlman O, Albertsson A-C, Edlund U,
Nordic Pulp & Paper Research Journal (2012), 27(3), 518-524

Birch xylan grafted with PLA branches of predictable length
Persson J, Dahlman O, Albertsson A-C,
Bioresources (2012), 7(3), 3640-3655

Bacterial nanocellulose reinforced arabinoxylan films
Stevanic J S, Joly C, Mikkonen K S, Pirkkalainen K, Serimaa R, Rémond C, Toriz G, Gatenholm P, Tenkanen M, Salmén L
2011 Journal of Applied Polymer Science 122(2):1030-1039, On-line publication: DOI 10.1002/app.34217

Arabinoxylan/nanofibrillated cellulose composite films
Stevanic J S, Bergström E M, Gatenholm P, Berglund L, Salmén L
2012 Journal of Materials Science 47(18):6724-6732, On-line publication: DOI: 10.1007/s10853-012-6615-8

Prehydrolysis in Softwood Pulping Produces a Valuable Biorefinery Fraction for Material Utilization.
Saadatmand, S., U. Edlund, A.-C. Albertsson, S. Danielsson and O. Dahlman (2012). Environmental Science & Technology 46(15): 8389-8396.