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Individual Highlight

Elucidating Covalent Bond Formation and Cleavage in Wood

Photo of Snapshot : A new technique has been developed to monitor structural changes in the polymers present in wood cell walls. This allows researchers, for example, to look at how brown rot fungi attack lignin structures when the fungi degrade cell walls. It has also allowed researchers to disprove a particular theory of adhesion bonding. This technique allows researchers, when making intentional changes in cell walls, to see more precisely how the cells' polymer structures change.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Yelle, Daniel J.  
Research Station : Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)
Year : 2011
Highlight ID : 280


Understanding the chemical changes of lignocellulosic wood polymers subjected to different chemical and biological processes is difficult. The common practice of isolating cell wall components for individual analyses is time consuming and can alter the original structure of lignocellulosic polymers in wood. Working with a group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison biochemistry department, FPL researchers have elucidated mechanistic details relating to some long-standing theories of wood adhesion and brown-rot fungal decay. First, solution-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) of dissolved wood cell walls has been applied to delineate reactions between an isocyanate adhesive and wood, showing that covalent bonds between wood and adhesives are not important for bond durability. Second, NMR of dissolved brown-rotted wood revealed marked bond cleavage of O4-linked lignin sidechains, thus significantly altering the original lignin polymer in wood. Other applications of this technology will include investigating the structure of lignocellulosics found in reaction wood and juvenile wood, exploring the chemistry of biomass during bioconversion processes, and how white rot decay fungi degrade lignocellulosics in wood.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison

Program Areas