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Biomacromolecules. 2007 Sep;8(9):2629-47. Epub 2007 Aug 11.

Applications of ionic liquids in carbohydrate chemistry: a window of opportunities.

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Instituto de Química, Universidade de São Paulo, C.P. 26077, 05513-970 São Paulo, S.P., Brazil.


Ionic liquids (ILs) are composed only of ions. Of special interest to this review are those where at least one ion (the cation) is organic and whose melting points are below or not far above room temperature. ILs are designated as "green" solvents because they have extremely low vapor pressure, are non-inflammable, and thermally and chemically stable. Therefore, many of them can be, in principle, recycled into the process indefinitely. The objective of the present review is to discuss different aspects of the use of ILs in carbohydrate chemistry, in particular, dissolution and functionalization of simple sugars, cyclodextrins, cellulose, starch, and chitin/chitosan. The molecular structure and synthesis of ILs most frequently employed in carbohydrate chemistry are discussed with an emphasis on imidazolium and pyridinium cations with different counterions. The physicochemical properties of ILs that are relevant to the dissolution and functionalization of carbohydrates, in particular their polarities and hydrogen-bonding abilities, are discussed. Dissolution of simple saccharides and biopolymers in ILs is presented with an emphasis on the mechanism of carbohydrate--IL interactions. Finally, the very interesting novel applications of the solutions obtained are addressed. These include, inter alia, spinning of the dissolved biopolymer into fibers, extrusion into slabs and rods, formation of matrixes for a myriad of substrates, including biomacromolecules, formation of nanocomposites, and functionalization to produce important derivatives. The use of ILs in many branches of science is expanding fast; it is hoped that this review will draw the attention of researchers to the "window of opportunities" that these green solvents open into carbohydrate chemistry.

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