2,2,6,6-Tetramethylpiperidine-1-oxyl (TEMPO)-oxidized cellulose nanofibers (TOCNs), which have a high-density of exposed carboxylic acid groups on their crystalline surfaces, effectively act as acid catalysts in acetal hydrolysis. Carboxy-free cellulose nanofibers, polymeric carboxylic acids, and homogeneous acetic acid do not show significant catalytic activity under the same reaction conditions. Mercerized TOCNs differing from the original TOCNs in a crystalline structure were also ineffective, which suggests that the unique nanoarchitectural features of TOCNs, such as regularly aligned carboxylic acid groups, large specific surface areas, and structural rigidity, must be major factors in the acceleration of acetal hydrolysis. Kinetic analysis suggested that substrates and/or acid catalyst species were concentrated on the TOCN crystalline surfaces, which significantly enhanced the catalytic activity.
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