It has been shown that the wall of the plant fiber is probably built up of unit groups of atoms which have assumed the form of a space lattice. The elementary cell of the lattice is an orthorhombic structure with the dimensions 6.10 x 5.40 x 10.30 Å.u., and contains two unit groups equal in size to two C6H10O5 groups. The crystallographic unit cell would contain 4 of these elementary cells and would be represented by Fig. 9 rather than by Fig. 3.
The groups of atoms, C6H10O5, are arranged in parallel chains running lengthwise of the fiber. In each chain the odd numbered groups have a different orientation from the even numbered. The chains, parallel to one another are spaced 6.10 Å.u. in one direction and 5.40 Å.u. at right angles to that. In these two directions the odd numbered chains also would have a different orientation from the even numbered.
On account of the cylindrical shape of the fiber, the elementary cells are arranged in the form of concentric cylinders or layers. The dimensions of the fibers are such that the fiber wall is about 40,000 elementary cells in thickness, or in other words, the fiber is composed of that many concentric layers. If it could be magnified sufficiently, a cross-section of a fiber would show the end view of each cylinder as a dotted circle. The dots, representing the unit groups of atoms, would have considerable uniformity of spacing in both the tangential and the radial directions, 6.10 Å.u. in one and 5.40 Å.u. in the other. The structure could not be as rigidly exact as might be inferred, since the wall is deposited more or less rhythmically during a period of several days or weeks* in which adjustments in the arrangement of the unit groups undoubtedly occur. It is common knowledge that the fibers, under the microscope, rarely appear as true circles on cross-section; usually they appear as irregular, many-sided polygons and the wall thickness is normally uneven. For our purpose it is simpler to think of the fiber as composed of concentric cylinders with diameters so large in proportion to the size of the unit groups that in relatively large segments they closely approach the parallelism of the planes of a rectangular lattice, sufficiently close to be capable of producing diffraction patterns.
Although these conclusions seem to be in agreement with the diffraction patterns obtained from various positions of a bundle of approximately parallel fibers, the fact must not be overlooked that the structure cannot be proved with as great certainty as can the structure of a well formed crystal. The very nature of the fiber, its cylindrical shape, and the many internal adjustments which must take place, militate against a clean-cut demonstration.
Models, made more or less to scale, were used in working out this structure. The unit group was constructed according to Irvine's suggestion that all the groups are glucose residues. An intensive study is now under way in which an attempt is being made to bring the models into agreement with the chemical and physical properties of the cellulose fibers and with the diffraction patterns. A report on that part of the work will soon be submitted for publication.