Fibre analysis

The ability to characterise the ultrastructure of biomass fibres is highly relevant for the pulp and paper industry. Using microscopy, CSIR researchers have developed a suit of techniques to provide insight into the mechanical and chemical processes used to treat wood and other biomass fibres to produce a wide array of products.

The researchers use various modes of microscopy, including optical, transmission electron microscopy, field emission gun scanning electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy, to profile key fibre features that assist with determining product quality and trouble shoot process inefficiency.

These features include fibre cell wall fibrillation and delamination, cell-wall layer analysis which establishes removal of cell-wall outer layers, lateral fibril aggregate dimensions and fibre topography analysis. Researchers also have expertise in immuno-gold labelling techniques that are used as a tool to localise various cell wall components that can be visualised using electron microscopy including crystalline cellulose, xylan and mannan.

The fractionation of biomass into its three main components, namely cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose, is fundamental to the development of biorefinery technologies and beneficiation of different waste streams generated by biomass processing industries such as the pulp and paper industry. The microscopy tools developed were recently used in projects to assess the ultrastructure of wood and bagasse fibres after using different fractionation technologies.

For more information, contact:

Dr Viren Chunilall
E-mail: VChunilall@csir.co.za
Tel: +27 (0)31 242 2315


Fibre analysis is beneficial for biomass processing industries concerned with fibre quality and the impact on product quality. Fibre analysis tools can be used to understand the impact of various processing technologies (mechanical, enzymatic and chemical) on fibre ultrastructure.