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Materials (Basel). 2016 Jul 26;9(8). pii: E618. doi: 10.3390/ma9080618.

Plant Fibre: Molecular Structure and Biomechanical Properties, of a Complex Living Material, Influencing Its Deconstruction towards a Biobased Composite.

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Scion, Private Bag 3020, Rotorua 3046, New Zealand.
Scion, Private Bag 3020, Rotorua 3046, New Zealand.
Scion, Private Bag 3020, Rotorua 3046, New Zealand.
Scion, Private Bag 3020, Rotorua 3046, New Zealand.


Plant cell walls form an organic complex composite material that fulfils various functions. The hierarchical structure of this material is generated from the integration of its elementary components. This review provides an overview of wood as a composite material followed by its deconstruction into fibres that can then be incorporated into biobased composites. Firstly, the fibres are defined, and their various origins are discussed. Then, the organisation of cell walls and their components are described. The emphasis is on the molecular interactions of the cellulose microfibrils, lignin and hemicelluloses in planta. Hemicelluloses of diverse species and cell walls are described. Details of their organisation in the primary cell wall are provided, as understanding of the role of hemicellulose has recently evolved and is likely to affect our perception and future study of their secondary cell wall homologs. The importance of the presence of water on wood mechanical properties is also discussed. These sections provide the basis for understanding the molecular arrangements and interactions of the components and how they influence changes in fibre properties once isolated. A range of pulping processes can be used to individualise wood fibres, but these can cause damage to the fibres. Therefore, issues relating to fibre production are discussed along with the dispersion of wood fibres during extrusion. The final section explores various ways to improve fibres obtained from wood.


biobased composites; biological material; cell wall; hemicellulose; molecular interactions; plant fibre; reinforced plastics

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