, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 3427–3441 | Cite as

Excellent chemical and material cellulose from tunicates: diversity in cellulose production yield and chemical and morphological structures from different tunicate species

  • Yadong Zhao
  • Jiebing LiEmail author
Original Paper


The high crystallinity and the high microfibrils aspect ratio of tunicate cellulose (TC) indicate TC’s excellent chemical and material applications. However, its quantity and quality from different species have never been systematically reported and compared. In this study, the tunics of Ciona intestinalis (CI), Ascidia sp. (AS), Halocynthia roretzi (HR) and Styela plicata (SP) were processed to TC after an identical prehydrolysis-kraft cooking-bleaching sequence, while the tunicate fibrils were chemically and structurally characterized in situ and during the sequence. All tunics studied were composed of crystalline cellulose embedded with protein, lipids, sulfated glycans and mucopolysaccharides. The native composite structures are all very compact. However, the tunics from Phlebobranchia order (CI and AS) are soft, while those from Stolidobranchia, HR and SP, are hard. Fibrous cellulose could be prepared after removing the lipids, sulfated glycans and mucopolysaccharides through prehydrolysis, protein removal through kraft cooking and a final purification by bleaching. The final product is ~100 % pure cellulose which is in large molecular masses, composed of highly crystalline Iβ crystals, in elementary microfibrils form, with high specific surface area and thermal stability. There were lower TC yields from the soft tunics than from the hard ones. The cellulose fibrils had a section shape of lozenges with higher crystallinity. This study demonstrates that TC could be obtained in different yields and exhibited different chemical and morphological structures depending on the species. There is a great potential of tunicate resources for preparing excellent chemical and material cellulose.


Tunicate cellulose Ciona intestinalis Ascidia sp. Halocynthia roretzi Styela plicata Chemical processing Characterization 



The China Scholarship Council (CSC) is acknowledged for supporting Yadong Zhao’s PhD study at KTH. Christofer Troedsson, Eric Thompson, and Jean-Marie Bouquet from University of Bergen are acknowledged for the tunicate sample collections in Norway.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Fibre and Polymer TechnologyKTH, Royal Institute of TechnologyStockholmSweden

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