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© 2018, Springer Nature B.V. Abstract: The insufficient resolution of conventional methods has long limited the structural elucidation of cellulose and its derivatives, especially for those with relatively low crystallinities or in native cell walls. Recent 2D/3D solid-state NMR studies of 13 C uniformly labeled plant biomaterials have initiated a re-investigation of our existing knowledge in cellulose structure and its interactions with matrix polymers but for unlabeled materials, this spectroscopic method becomes impractical due to limitations in sensitivity. Here, we investigate the molecular structure of unlabeled cotton cellulose by combining natural abundance 13 C– 13 C 2D correlation solid-state NMR spectroscopy, as enabled by the sensitivity-enhancing technique of dynamic nuclear polarization, with statistical analysis of the observed and literature-reported chemical shifts. The atomic resolution allows us to monitor the loss of Iα and Iβ allomorphs and the generation of a novel structure during ball-milling, which reveals the importance of large crystallite size for maintaining the Iα and Iβ model structures. Partial order has been identified in the “disordered” domains, as evidenced by a discrete distribution of well-resolved peaks. This study not only provides heretofore unavailable high-resolution insights into cotton cellulose but also presents a widely applicable strategy for analyzing the structure of cellulose-rich materials without isotope-labeling. This work was part of a multi-technique study of ball-milled cotton described in the previous article in the same issue. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

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