Background: Tension wood is a type of reaction wood in response to bending or leaning stem as a corrective growth process. Tension wood is formed by both natural and man-made processes. Most attractively, tension wood contains higher glucan content and undergoes higher enzymatic conversion to fermentable sugars. Here, we have employed structural techniques, small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) and wide-angle X-ray diffraction (WAXD) to elucidate structural and morphological aspects of tension wood conducive to higher sugar yields. Results: Small-angle neutron scattering data exhibited a tri-modal distribution of the fibril cross-sectional dimension. The smallest size, 22 Å observed in all samples concurred with the WAXD results of the control and opposite side samples. This smallest and the most abundant occurring size was interpreted as the cellulose elementary microfibril diameter. The intermediate size of 45 Å, which is most pronounced in the tension side sample and consistent with WAXD results for tension side sample, indicates association of neighboring elementary microfibrils to form larger crystallite bundles. The largest size 61 Å observed by SANS was however not observed by WAXD and therefore associated to mesopores. Conclusions: Structure and morphology of tension wood is different from control wood. Cellulose crystallinity increases, lignin content is lower and the appearance of mesopores with 61 Å diameter is observed. Despite the presence of higher crystalline cellulose content in tension side, the lower lignin content and may be combined with the abundance of mesopores, substantially improves enzyme accessibility leading to higher yields in cellulose digestion.
- Coalescence of cellulose microfibrils
- Small-angle neutron scattering, SANS
- Tension wood
- Wide-angle X-ray diffraction, WAXD