Organosolv biomass pretreatment for fuel production
Conference contribution, 2017
Never has the issue of sustainability gathered so much importance than now. The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change2 necessitates us to take drastic actions to combat the emissions of greenhouse gases. A rising population, an urban lifestyle and increased economic growth would place enormous pressure on the global energy demand and food production. Thus, targeting industrial chemicals – valued at 3 trillion USD per year, with bio-based processes will enable the production of these chemicals from a non-petrochemical feedstock.
Biomass is a renewable feedstock that is available abundantly. However, it needs to be processed, to release the sugars that can be utilised by microorganisms to produce various products of interest. Several pretreatment methods are currently available for biomass deconstruction, but inevitably they produce compounds, such as hydroxyl methyl furfural and furfural, that are toxic to the microorganisms. Organosolv pretreatment has shown much promise, as it yields three distinct and clean streams — cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, that are microorganisms ‘friendly’.
The cellulose stream can be hydrolysed using a cocktail of enzymes (Novozymes) to release the glucose monomers. In this study, we evaluated the sugar yields from the hydrolysis of organosolv pretreated spruce and birch biomass.