The hydrolysis of nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC), consisting of individual cellulose fibrils, was followed using small-angle scattering techniques in order to reveal changes in the substrate structure caused by cellulose degrading enzymes. In particular, the nanoscale structure of the network of cellulose fibrils was characterized with the combination of small-angle neutron scattering and small-angle x-ray scattering. In the nanocellulose with higher xylan content, the interfibrillar distance was shown to remain unchanged during enzymatic degradation, whereas the distance increased in the nanocellulose with lower xylan content. The limiting effect of xylan on the hydrolysis and a faster hydrolysis of the more thoroughly fibrillated segments of the NFC network could be observed. Despite the extensive fibrillation of the raw material, however, the hydrolysis was eventually limited by the aggregated and heterogeneous structure of the substrate.
- Enzymatic hydrolysis