134. Brown, R.M., Jr. 1989. Bacterial cellulose. In: Cellulose: Structural and Functional Aspects, Ed Kennedy, Phillips, & Williams. Ellis Horwood Ltd. pp 145-151.

134. Introduction

The major industrial source of cellulose is vascular plants. Resources for most applications in the building industry, and the cotton plant is the major source for textiles. Most paper products originate from wood pulp. If vascular plants are sufficient raw materials for industrial uses of cellulose, why is the consideration of bacterial cellulose appropriate? Most industrial cellulose operations involve harvesting of large areas of the world's great natural forests. In some cases, the harvesting of tropical equatorial forests leading to a major loss of valued ecosystems and species, not to mention erosion of land and pollution. Thus, there is a logical need to begin considering alternative sources of cellulose. Bacterial cellulose has some unique features rather distinct from other sources: (a) it is generated in the form of a never dried membrane; (b) no lignin and few other polysaccharides are co-synthesized; (C) the cellulose is of great mechanical strength; and, (d) the cellulose can be modified during synthesis.

Except for a product, Nata de Cocoa from the Philippines, bacterial cellulose is mostly a laboratory curiosity (Lapuz, et al 1969). Bacterial cellulose synthesis has provided scientists new research avenues for exploring the basics of this process, including polymerization and crystallization steps, isolation of the cellulose synthase, and production of cellulose in vitro. This brief review will cover the known sources of bacterial cellulose, highlight the major scientific breakthroughs in cellulose structure and biosynthesis, cover the past and present industrial exploitations of this product, and peer into the future for scientific and commercial utilization of the process and product.

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Last modified 27 October 2005.
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