pp 1–16 | Cite as

Production of cellulose aerogels from coir fibers via an alkali–urea method for sorption applications

  • Mar’atul Fauziyah
  • Widiyastuti Widiyastuti
  • Ratna Balgis
  • Heru SetyawanEmail author
Original Research


Biodegradable cellulose aerogels have been successfully prepared from coir fibers using a sulfur-free method and NaOH–urea system. Sulfur was avoided during pretreatment because it is environmentally harmful. Interestingly, these pretreatments had a strong effect on the physical properties of the aerogels produced. Good physical properties of the cellulose aerogels were obtained when the Kappa number, i.e., the lignin content, in the pulp was lower than 14.8. NaOH–urea played an important role in transforming cellulose I to cellulose II and crosslinked cellulose to form an aerogel structure. The aerogel had a macroporous structure, ultralight density, high porosity, good durability, and thermal stability. The aerogel was capable of absorbing 22 and 18 times its dry weight in water and oil, respectively. The material also had a high capacity for methylene blue dye adsorption of up to 62 g/g, which was one hundred times higher than that of adsorbents synthesized from the other natural matters. Therefore, the prepared aerogels have potential for various sorption applications.

Graphic abstract


NaOH–urea system Absorbent Adsorbent Coir fibers Cellulose aerogel 



This work was supported by the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education, Indonesia through a PMDSU Research Grant (Contract Numbers 15304/IT2.11/HK.00.02/2016, 77186/IT2.VII/HK.00.02/2017, and 798/PKS/ITS/2018). One of the authors (M.F.) would like to thank the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education, Indonesia, for a doctoral scholarship through PMDSU. We thank Ms. Tiara Nur Pratiwi and Mr. Muhammad Abid Hidayatullah for their assistance with the experiments. We also thank Ms. Annie Mufyda Rahmatika for the TGA analysis.


  1. Aaltonen O, Jauhiainen O (2009) The preparation of lignocellulosic aerogels from ionic liquid solutions. Carbohydr Polym 75:125–129. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Azubuike CP, Rodríguez H, Okhamafe AO, Rogers RD (2012) Physicochemical properties of maize cob cellulose powders reconstituted from ionic liquid solution. Cellulose 19:425–433. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baldanza VAR, Souza FG, Filho ST, Franco HA, Oliveira GE, Caetano RMJ, Hernandez JAR, Ferreira Leite SG, Furtado Sousa AM, Nazareth Silva AL (2018) Controlled-release fertilizer based on poly(butylene succinate)/urea/clay and its effect on lettuce growth. J Appl Polym Sci 135:51–60. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Budde PK, Megha R, Patel R, Pandey J (2019) Investigating effects of temperature on fuel properties of torrefied biomass for bio-energy systems. Energy Sources Part A Recover Util Environ Eff 41:1140–1148. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cai J, Zhang L (2005) Rapid dissolution of cellulose in LiOH/urea and NaOH/urea aqueous solutions. Macromol Biosci 5:539–548. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cai J, Zhang L (2006) Unique gelation behavior of cellulose in NaOH/urea aqueous solution. Biomacromolecules 7:183–189. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen W, Li Q, Wang Y, Yi X, Zeng J, Yu H (2014) Comparative study of aerogels obtained from differently prepared nanocellulose fibers. ChemSusChem 7:154–161. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen X, Chen J, You T, Wang K, Xu F (2015) Effects of polymorphs on dissolution of cellulose in NaOH/urea aqueous solution. Carbohydr Polym 125:85–91. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chen M, Zhang X, Zhang A, Liu C, Sun R (2016) Direct preparation of green and renewable aerogel materials from crude bagasse. Cellulose 23:1325–1334. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Demilecamps A, Reichenauer G, Rigacci A, Budtova T (2014) Cellulose–silica composite aerogels from “one-pot” synthesis. Cellulose 21:2625–2636. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Foster JJ, Forge C (1993) Kappa number calibration standard 1–7. Westvaco Corporation, New York, US Patent 5194388Google Scholar
  12. French AD (2014) Idealized powder diffraction patterns for cellulose polymorphs. Cellulose 21:885–896. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. French AD, Santiago Cintrón MS (2013) Cellulose polymorphy, crystallite size, and the Segal crystallinity index. Cellulose 20:583–588. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gavillon R, Budtova T (2008) Aerocellulose: new highly porous cellulose prepared from cellulose–NaOH aqueous solutions. Biomacromolecules 9:269–277. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Grishechko LI, Amaral-Labat G, Szczurek A, Fierro V, Kuznetsov BN, Pizzi A, Celzard A (2013) New tannin–lignin aerogels. Ind Crops Prod 41:347–355. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gui X, Li H, Wang K, Wei J, Jia Y, Li Z, Fan L, Cao A, Zhu H, Wu D (2011) Recyclable carbon nanotube sponges for oil absorption. Acta Mater 59:4798–4804. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Han R, Wang Y, Zhao X, Wang Y, Xie F, Cheng J, Tang M (2009) Adsorption of methylene blue by phoenix tree leaf powder in a fixed-bed column: experiments and prediction of breakthrough curves. Desalination 245:284–297. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Han Y, Zhang X, Wu X, Lu C (2015) Flame retardant, heat insulating cellulose aerogels from waste cotton fabrics by in situ formation of magnesium hydroxide nanoparticles in cellulose gel nanostructures. ACS Sustain Chem Eng 3:1853–1859. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ioelovich M, Leykin A, Figovsky O (2010) Study of cellulose paracrystallinity. BioResources 5:1393–1407Google Scholar
  20. Isobe N, Noguchi K, Nishiyama Y, Kimura S, Wada M, Kuga S (2013) Role of urea in alkaline dissolution of cellulose. Cellulose 20:97–103. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kannan N, Sundaram MM (2001) Kinetics and mechanism of removal of methylene blue by adsorption on various carbons—a comparative study. Dye Pigment 51:25–40. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kathirselvam M, Kumaravel A, Arthanarieswaran VP, Saravanakumar SS (2019) Isolation and characterization of cellulose fi bers from Thespesia populnea barks: a study on physicochemical and structural properties. Int J Biol Macromol 129:396–406. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Korhonen JT, Kettunen M, Ras RHA, Ikkala O (2011) Hydrophobic nanocellulose aerogels as floating, sustainable, reusable, and recyclable oil absorbents. ACS Appl Mater Interfaces 3:1813–1816. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Laurichesse S, Avérous L (2014) Chemical modification of lignins: towards biobased polymers. Prog Polym Sci 39:1266–1290. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Li J, Wan C, Lu Y, Sun Q (2014) Fabrication of cellulose aerogel from wheat straw with strong absorptive capacity. Agric Sci Eng 1:46–52. Google Scholar
  26. Li S, Warzywoda J, Wang S, Ren G, Fan Z (2017) Bacterial cellulose derived carbon nanofiber aerogel with lithium polysulfide catholyte for lithium–sulfur batteries. Carbon 124:212–218. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Li Y, Li Z, Shen G, Zhan Y (2019) Paper conservation with an aqueous NaOH/urea cellulose solution. Cellulose 3:4589–4599. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Liang H, Wu Z, Chen L, Li C, Yu S-H (2015) Bacterial cellulose derived nitrogen-doped carbon nano fiber aerogel: an efficient metal-free oxygen reduction electrocatalyst for zinc-air battery. Nano Energy 11:366–376. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Liu K, Li H, Zhang J, Zhang Z, Xu J (2016) The effect of non-structural components and lignin on hemicellulose extraction. Bioresour Technol 214:755–760. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Liu Z, Wu J, Xia J, Dai H, Cao Y, Wang Z (2019) Characterization of lignocellulose aerogels fabricated using a LiCl/DMSO solution. Ind Crops Prod 131:293–300. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lu F, Ralph J (2003) Non-degradative dissolution and acetylation of ball-milled plant cell walls: high-resolution solution-state NMR. Plant J 35:535–544. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lu Y, Sun Q, Yang D, She X, Yao X, Zhu G, Liu Y, Zhao H, Li J (2012) Fabrication of mesoporous lignocellulose aerogels from wood via cyclic liquid nitrogen freezing–thawing in ionic liquid solution. J Mater Chem 22:13548–13557. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Maher M, Prasad M, Raviv M (2008) Organic soilless media components. In: Raviv M, Lieth JH (eds) Soilless culture: theory and practice. Elsevier B.V, Amsterdam, pp 459–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mohammed N, Grishkewich N, Waeijen HA, Berry RM, Tam KC (2016) Continuous flow adsorption of methylene blue by cellulose nanocrystal-alginate hydrogel beads in fixed bed columns. Carbohydr Polym 136:1194–1202. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mussana H, Yang X, Tessima M, Han F, Iqbal N (2018) Preparation of lignocellulose aerogels from cotton stalks in the ionic liquid- based co-solvent system. Ind Crop Prod 113:225–233. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nam S, French AD, Condon BD, Concha M (2016) Segal crystallinity index revisited by the simulation of X-ray diffraction patterns of cotton cellulose Iβ and cellulose II. Carbohydr Polym 135:1–9. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nazriati N, Setyawan H, Affandi S, Yuwana M, Winardi S (2014) Using bagasse ash as a silica source when preparing silica aerogels via ambient pressure drying. J Non Cryst Solids 400:6–11. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nguyen ST, Feng J, Le NT, Le ATT, Hoang N, Tan VBC, Duong HM (2013) Cellulose aerogel from paper waste for crude oil spill cleaning. Ind Eng Chem Res 52:18386–18391. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Nguyen ST, Feng J, Ng SK, Wong JPW, Tan VBC, Duong HM (2014) Advanced thermal insulation and absorption properties of recycled cellulose aerogels. Colloids Surf A 445:128–134. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Oh SY, Il Yoo D, Shin Y, Seo G (2005) FTIR analysis of cellulose treated with sodium hydroxide and carbon dioxide. Carbohydr Res 340:417–428. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Okano T, Sarko A (1984) Mercerization of cellulose. I. X-ray diffraction evidence for intermediate structures. J Appl Polym Sci 29:4175–4182. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Olsson RT, Samir MASA, Salazar-Alvarez G, Belova L, Strom V, Berglund LA, Ikkala O, Nogues J, Gedde UW (2010) Making flexible magnetic aerogels and stiff magnetic nanopaper using cellulose nanofibrils as templates. Nat Nanotechnol 5:584–588. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pääkkö M, Vapaavuori J, Silvennoinen R, Kosonen H, Ankerfors M, Lindström T, Berglund LA, Ikkala O (2008) Long and entangled native cellulose I nanofibers allow flexible aerogels and hierarchically porous templates for functionalities. Soft Matter 4:2492–2499. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Qi H, Mader E, Liu J (2013) Electrically conductive aerogels composed of cellulose and carbon nanotubes. J Mater Chem A 1:9714–9720. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Reddy KO, Ashok B, Reddy KRN, Feng YE, Zhang J, Rajulu AV (2014) Extraction and characterization of novel lignocellulosic fibers from Thespesia lampas plant. Int J Polym Anal Charact 19:48–61. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Salas C, Ago M, Lucia LA, Rojas OJ (2014) Synthesis of soy protein–lignin nanofibers by solution electrospinning. React Funct Polym 85:221–227. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sarko A, Nishimura H, Okano T (1987) Crystalline alkali–cellulose complexes as intermediates during mercerization. In: Atalla RH (ed) The structure of cellulose. American Chemical Society, Washington, DC, pp 169–177Google Scholar
  48. Segal L, Creely JJ, Martin AE, Conrad CM (1959) An empirical method for estimating the degree of crystallinity of native cellulose using the X-ray diffractometer. Text Res J 43:786–794CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sescousse R, Gavillon R, Budtova T (2011) Aerocellulose from cellulose–ionic liquid solutions: preparation, properties and comparison with cellulose–NaOH and cellulose–NMMO routes. Carbohydr Polym 83:1766–1774. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Shen R, Li H (2016) Effects of impurities in alkali-extracted xylan on its enzymatic hydrolysis to produce. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 179:740–752. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Shen Z, Han G, Wang X, Luo J, Sun R (2017) An ultra-light antibacterial bagasse–AgNP aerogel. J Mater Chem B 5:1155–1158. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Socha AM, Plummer SP, Stavila V, Simmons BA, Singh S (2013) Comparison of sugar content for ionic liquid pretreated Douglas-fir woodchips and forestry residues. Biotechnol Biofuels 6:1–10. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Song J, Zou W, Bian Y, Su F, Han R (2011) Adsorption characteristics of methylene blue by peanut husk in batch and column modes. Desalination 265:119–125. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Thomas HC (1944) Heterogenous ion exchange in a flowing system. J Am Chem Soc 66:1664–1666CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Thygesen A, Oddershede J, Lilholt H, Thomsen AB, Ståhl K (2005) On the determination of crystallinity and cellulose content in plant fibres. Cellulose 12:563–576. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wan C, Li J (2016) Incorporation of graphene nanosheets into cellulose aerogels: enhanced mechanical, thermal, and oil adsorption properties. Appl Phys A Mater 122:1–7. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wan C, Lu Y, Jiao Y (2015a) Preparation of mechanically strong and lightweight cellulose aerogels from cellulose–NaOH/PEG solution. J Sol Gel Sci Technol 74:256–259. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wan C, Lu Y, Jiao Y, Jin C, Sun Q, Li J (2015b) Ultralight and hydrophobic nanofibrillated cellulose aerogels from coconut shell with ultrastrong adsorption properties. J Appl Polym Sci 42037:1–7. Google Scholar
  59. Wan C, Jiao Y, Wei S, Zhang L, Wu Y, Li J (2019) Functional nanocomposites from sustainable regenerated cellulose aerogels: a review. Chem Eng J 359:459–475. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wang J, Zheng Y, Wang A (2013) Coated kapok fiber for removal of spilled oil. Mar Pollut Bull 69:91–96. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wang S, Peng X, Zhong L, Tan J, Jing S, Cao X, Chen W, Liu C, Sun R (2015) An ultralight, elastic, cost-effective, and highly recyclable superabsorbent from microfibrillated cellulose fibers for oil spillage cleanup. J Mater Chem A 3:8772–8781. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wertz J-L, Bedue O, Mercier JP (2010) Structure and properties of cellulose (chapter 3). In: Press E (ed) Cellulose science and technology, 1st edn. EPFL Press, Lausanne, pp 87–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Xiong B, Zhao P, Hu K, Zhang L, Cheng G (2014) Dissolution of cellulose in aqueous NaOH/urea solution: role of urea. Cellulose 21:1183–1192. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Yu M, Li J, Wang L (2017) KOH-activated carbon aerogels derived from sodium carboxymethyl cellulose for high-performance supercapacitors and dye adsorption. Chem Eng J 310:300–306. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Industrial TechnologySepuluh Nopember Institute of TechnologySurabayaIndonesia
  2. 2.Department of Chemical Engineering, Graduate School of EngineeringHiroshima UniversityHigashi-HiroshimaJapan

Personalised recommendations