Cellulose is a complex carbohydrate also falling under the category of polysaccharides and contains units of glucose around 3,000 or more. The cellulose is one of the widely available organic compounds occurring naturally in plenty and constitutes 33 per cent of the whole vegetable matter (which includes 50 per cent of wood and 90 percent of cotton) in the planet.
Only herbivorous animals (horses, cows) could digest cellulose, unlike humans who do not have the enzymes to break them down as the former have the capacity to hold them in their alimentary tracts which would aid the microorganisms present in it to digest them. Another microorganism which could digest it is the protozoans found in the gut of insects like termites.
Use of Cellulose
The major uses of this carbohydrate include fibers and papers which are modified chemically to make the raw materials used in producing films for photography, rayon, and plastics. The derivatives of this carbohydrate are used in food thickening agents, explosives, adhesives, and moisture-proof coatings.
The strength possessed by wood is mainly due to this carbohydrate having sugar molecules with long linked chains. Also, it is the major constituents of plant cell walls and forms the foundation of paper and textiles.
Different forms of Cellulose
The purest and natural form in which this carbohydrate could be found is none other than cotton. If this carbohydrate is to be produced in laboratories in a nearly pure form, it could be done using filter paper (ashless). An interesting fact about this item is that it is a natural polymer consisting of smaller molecules linking together forming a long chain. ß-D-glucose type of sugar forms the main constituent in the links of the chain. Polar –OH groups are abundant in the chains of this carbohydrate. The chains are bundled together in such a way that adjacent chains on OH groups would form bonds of hydrogen. Being a major component of wood, the fibers of this carbohydrate would have lignin (complex polymer) bound with them.
The wood pulp would be treated using bisulfites or alkalis while making paper so that lignin would be disintegrated and the fibers of the carbohydrate would be matted together by pulp pressing. As a dietary option, cellulose is found in most plants and thus makes a proper source of food.
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