Polysaccharid chemistry

Hemicellulose – A polysaccharide with potential

In addition to cellulose, hemicellulose is the quantitatively most important group of naturally occurring polymers in plants. Despite its great potential, there have so far been few application possibilities for hemicellulose. Unlike cellulose, hemicellulose is dependent on the irregularly composed group of polysaccharides that is the result of their plant origin. In addition to the basic units of pentoses (xylan, arabinose) and hexoses (mannose, glucose, galactose) many side chain branches (e.g. glucuronic acid, rhamnose, and arabinose) are typical for hemicelluloses. The most significant group of hemicelluloses is xylans which primarily occur in annuals and deciduous trees. Modification possibilities for hemicelluloses include esterification, oxidation and graft polymerization. In addition to the growing role they are playing in energy generation, gels and membranes made from modified hemicelluloses are conceivable as promising applications in the medical and pharmaceutical industries.