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Spiral angle of elementary cellulose fibrils in cell walls ofPicea abies determined by small-angle x-ray scattering

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The spiral angle of the elementary cellulose fibril in the wood cell wall, often called microfibril angle, is of primary importance for the mechanical properties of wood. While there are a number of methods to estimate this angle, x-ray diffraction (XRD) techniques have recently obtained a lot of attention because of their ability to provide information averaged over a significantly large specimen volume. Here, we present results from a related method, small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS). The advantage of SAXS is that, unlike XRD, it does not require any assumption on the orientation of the cellulose crystal axis with respect to the fibril axis. Full three-dimensional scattering patterns were collected using an area detector by rotating the sample around one axis. The distribution of fibrillar orientations was seen to reflect the typical cross-sectional shape of the tracheids (square or circular). In the stem, the spiral angle was found <5° in earlywood and ≈20° in latewood. In branches the angle was ≈30° in the upper part and ≈40° in the lower part, which strongly supports the idea that the spiral angle has primarily mechanical function.

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Correspondence to P. Fratzl.

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We thank W. Laube, F. Einramhof, H. Königshofer and H. Löppert for their technical assistance. Financial support from the Fonds zu Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung (Proj. P10729-BIO) is gratefully acknowledged

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Reiterer, A., Jakob, H.F., Stanzl-Tschegg, S.E. et al. Spiral angle of elementary cellulose fibrils in cell walls ofPicea abies determined by small-angle x-ray scattering. Wood Sci.Technol. 32, 335–345 (1998).

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