Enzymatic Degradation of Cellulose-Based Materials

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The biodegradability of cellulose-based materials was compared in the standard Sturm test and by enzymatic hydrolysis. Trichoderma reesei culture filtrate, the purified enzymes endoglucanase I and II from T. reesei, and β-glucosidase from Aspergillus niger were used in the experiments. The unpurified Trichoderma reesei culture filtrate was found to contain a mixture of enzymes suitable for cellulose degradation. However, when purified enzymes were used the right balance of the individual enzymes was necessary. The addition of β-glucosidase enhanced the enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose materials when both culture filtrate and purified enzymes were used. In the Sturm test the biodegradability of most of the cellulose materials exceeded 70% carbon dioxide generation, but, in contrast, the biodegradability of the highly substituted aminated cellulose and cellulose acetate was below 10%. The results concerning enzymatic hydrolysis and biodegradability were in good agreement for kraft paper, sausage casing, aminated cellulose, and cellulose acetate. However, diverging results were obtained with cotton fabric, probably as a result of its high crystallinity.

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