Carbohydrate Polymers

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Information @ a Glance

  • Carbohydrates are polymers of monosaccharides (a.k.a sacchraides). These polymers are called polysaccharides. A polymer is basically a large molecule that can be hydrolyzed into a generic repeating unit
  • Carbohydrate polymers are widely used in various industrial applications in foods, pharmaceuticals, textiles, paper, and environmental technology
  • Carbohydrates have the general formula CnH2nO
  • Three major carbohydrate polymers are readily obtained from biomass and are commercially available. These polysaccharides are cellulose, starch, and gums.
  • Carbohydrates have six major functions within the body: Providing energy and regulation of blood glucose, Sparing the use of proteins for energy, Breakdown of fatty acids and preventing ketosis, Biological recognition processes, Flavor and Sweeteners, Dietary fiber
  • Importance of Carbohydrates:
    •Very effective energy yield: Contains carbon,has a reactive bond – carbonyl carbon and is a polar area, does not have 4 bonds to oxygen
    • Effective building material: Strong not brittle – will bend and not break
    • H2O soluble: Easily transported thru the blood stream, easily passes thru cell walls
  • β Glucose chains, like the one above, are called Cellulose molecules, and can contain 10000 glucose units. They are stronger than Amylose and are only found in plants.Cellulose is the most abundant polysaccharide found in nature
  • Cellulose fibres are arranged in a very specific way and can be described as being like a fractal. Long Cellulose chains bunch together, held by Hydrogen bonds, to form Microfibrils. These Microfibrils are bunched with other Microfibrils, held by more Hydrogen bonds, to form Macrofibrils.
  • Macrofibrils have a very high mechanical strength, similar to that of steel. In plant cell walls, they criss-cross over each, forming a cross-hatched structure, held by Hydrogen bonds, which is very strong. This also allows water to move though and along the cell wall.
  • Microfibrils can have special roles. For example, in Guard Cell Walls, the arrangement of microfibrils allows the Stomata to open and close. Cell walls can also be reinforced with other substances, or made waterproof.

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