Despite the structural, load-bearing role of cellulose in the plant kingdom, countless efforts have been devoted to degrading this recalcitrant polysaccharide, particularly in the context of biofuels and renewable nanomaterials. Herein, we show how the exposure of plant-based fibers to HCl vapor results in rapid degradation with simultaneous crystallization. Because of the unchanged sample texture and the lack of mass transfer out of the substrate in the gas/solid system, the changes in the crystallinity could be reliably monitored. Furthermore, we describe the preparation of cellulose nanocrystals in high yields and with minimal water consumption. The study serves as a starting point for the solid-state tuning of the supramolecular properties of morphologically heterogeneous biological materials.
- Interfacial reactions