Table of Contents
Journal of Polymers
Volume 2016, Article ID 2658747, 9 pages
Research Article

Effect of Urea Concentration on the Viscosity and Thermal Stability of Aqueous NaOH/Urea Cellulose Solutions

1Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8020, New Zealand
2Biomolecular Interaction Centre, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8020, New Zealand
3Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Auckland, 20 Symonds Street, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
4Institute for Bioengineering, School of Engineering, The University of Edinburgh, Colin Maclaurin Road, Edinburgh EH9 3DW, UK

Received 21 July 2016; Revised 20 September 2016; Accepted 9 October 2016

Academic Editor: Cornelia Vasile

Copyright © 2016 Tim Huber et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Aqueous solutions of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and urea are a known and versatile solvent for cellulose. The dissolution of cellulose occurs at subambient temperatures through the formation of a cellulose-NaOH-urea “inclusion complex” (IC). NaOH and urea form a hydrate layer around the cellulose chains preventing chain agglomeration. Urea is known to stabilize the solution but its direct role is unknown. Using viscometry and quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D) it could be shown that the addition of urea reduced the solutions viscosity of the tested solutions by almost 40% and also increased the gelation temperature from approximately 40°C to 90°C. Both effects could also be observed in the presence of additional cellulose powder serving as a physical cross-linker. Using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy during heating, it could be shown that a direct interaction occurs between urea and the cellulose molecules, reducing their ability to form hydrogen bonds with neighbouring chains.