Metal nanoparticles were incorporated into wood. Ionic liquids were used to expand the wood cell wall structure for nanoparticle incorporation into the cell wall structure. Nanoparticles of elemental gold or silver were found to be effective surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) imaging contrast or sensing agents. Nanoparticles of elemental iron were found to be efficient microwave absorbers and caused localized heating for disrupting the integrity of the lignocellulosic matrix. Controls suggest that the localized heating around the iron nanoparticles reduces losses of cellulose in the form of water, volatiles and CO.sub.2. The ionic liquid is needed during the incorporation process at room temperature. The use of small amounts of ionic liquid combined with the absence of an ionic liquid purification step and a lower energy and water use are expected to reduce costs in an up-scaled pretreatment process.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERAL RIGHTS
This invention was made with government support under Contract No. DE-AC52-06NA25396 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The government has certain rights in the invention.