Mild steam explosion: A way to activate wood for enzymatic treatment, chemical pulping and biorefinery processes
Journal article, 2012
Industrially chipped wood chips of Norway spruce (Picea abies) were subjected to mild steam explosion (115 - 160 degrees C) in a small-scale steam explosion reactor. This was followed by kraft cooking or extraction in alkali at 130 degrees C for two hours, or by an enzymatic treatment with a culture filtrate in order to investigate the efficiency of the process in opening wood structure. The results demonstrated that mild explosion has an effect on opening wood structure, shown by increased release of glucomannans during alkaline extraction and faster delignification in kraft cooks for steam-exploded samples. The effect was also shown by analysis of the released reducing sugars of enzymatic treated wood chips, which showed that the wood structure became accessible for enzymes even at very modest mild steam explosion conditions. This was not observed in untreated wood chips, used as reference. The enzyme activity increased with increased temperature during mild steam explosion, and the effect did not seem to be linear. The mechanical effect of steam explosion seems to be of great importance at lower temperatures, and both chemical and mechanical effects are important at higher steam explosion temperatures. Samples for enzymatic treatment were taken both from the edges of wood chips as well as from the middle part of the chips, and the effect of steam explosion was somewhat greater in samples from the middle parts.
Mild steam explosion