Hemicellulose is a promising renewable raw material for the production of hydrogels. This polysaccharide exists in large amounts in various waste streams, in which they are usually impure and heavily diluted. Several downstream processing methods can be combined to concentrate and purify the hemicellulose. However, such an approach can be costly; hence, the effect of impurities on the formation and properties of hydrogels must be determined. Lignin usually exists in these waste streams as a major impurity that is also difficult to separate. This compound can darken hydrogels and decrease their swellability and reactivity, as shown in many studies. Other properties and effects of lignin impurities are equally important for the end application of hydrogels and the overall process economy. In this work, we examined the feasibility of producing hydrogels from hemicelluloses that originated from sodium-based spent sulfite liquor. A combination of membrane filtration and anti-solvent precipitation was used to extract and purify various components. The influence of the purity of hemicellulose and the addition of lignosulfonates (emulated impurities in the downstream processing) to the crosslinking reaction mixture on the mechanical, thermal, and chemical properties of hydrogels was determined.
Published: 27 December 2018